A major storm in the North Atlantic is expected to bring a blast of cold weather to northwestern Europe in the coming days. Despite extremely heavy rain, snow and winds of 130kph, the main concern will be a major storm surge which is expected to coincide with a period of spring high tides.
As the storm develops late on Wednesday and through Thursday, much of Scotland, the Netherlands, northern Germany, Denmark and southern Scandinavia will be buffeted by severe gale force winds.
Strengthening winds through Wednesday will be accompanied by snow which will sweep across Scotland and southern Norway on Thursday afternoon. During the evening and night, snow will impact upon the North Sea coasts of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. Blizzard-like conditions will prevail for a time before the snow turns more showery in nature overnight.
The weather is likely to disrupt transport across the region, with airports such as Glasgow, Amsterdam’s Schipol, Hamburg and Copenhagen experiencing delays and cancellations. Most ferries are likely to be delayed or cancelled during Thursday and Friday.
Of greatest concern is the likelihood of a major storm surge, a dome of water produced by a combination of low pressure and, more importantly, severe gale to storm force winds.
Coastal defences are likely to be tested to the limit as a storm surge estimated to be at least 3 metres high coincides with a period of spring high tides. In anticipation of the surge, the Dutch port of Rotterdam’s flood gates are expected to be closed for the first time since they were built in the 1990s.
The region is well used to devastating storm surges, the greatest of which occurred on the night of January 31 1953. A severe storm brought a surge of 5.6 metres. Sea defences in eastern England, the Netherlands and Belgium were overwhelmed. 2,551 people lost their lives, more than 1,800 of those in The Netherlands alone. Another 230 people lost their lives in shipwrecks and other maritime incidents.
There is no suggestion that Thursday and Friday’s surge will be in any way comparable with 1953, but this is likely to be the severest test of defences across the North Sea region in the last 20 years.