A storm surge caused by extreme storm Xaver hits Port of Dagebuell in Northern Germany, 5 December 2013. Photo: CARSTEN REHDER / AFP

By Erik Kirschbaum and Belinda Goldsmith, with additional reporting by Matthias Baehr; editing by Ralph Boulton
5 December 2013

BERLIN/LONDON, 5 December 2013 (Reuters) – Hurricane-force winds disrupted transport and power supplies in Scotland and threatened coastal flooding in England as they closed on northern Europe in what meteorologists said could be one of the most powerful storms to hit the continent in years.

British authorities announced the Thames Barrier, designed to protect London from flooding during exceptional tides, would close on Thursday night and warned of "the most serious coastal tidal surge for over 60 years in England". Prime Minister David Cameron called a meeting to discuss strategy.

One person was killed as winds of up to 225 km per hour (140 mph) slammed into parts of the Scottish highlands, Britain's weather office said. More than 80,000 homes were left without power, according to energy company SSE.

That number was expected to rise with road connections blocked by fallen trees and debris. A lorry driver was killed and four people injured when his vehicle overturned and collided with other vehicles in West Lothian, police said.

All train services in Scotland were suspended shortly after 8 a.m. local time until further notice due to debris on the tracks caused by storm Xaver. Glasgow's Central Station was evacuated after part of a glass roof collapsed, ScotRail said.

Low-lying coastal areas in eastern England were particularly vulnerable to a predicted tidal surge. Sea defences have been built up considerably since storms and flooding killed hundreds on the North Sea coast in 1953.

Authorities in Germany's northern port city of Hamburg have issued warnings about the dangers of the winds, which some forecasters are saying could be as powerful as a deadly storm and ensuing flood that hit the city in 1962 and killed 315.

The city on the Elbe River was preparing for a direct hit by the storm on Thursday. Many schools and Christmas markets were closed as the storm neared and dozens of flights to and from Germany's second city were cancelled.

Ferries to Germany's North Sea islands were kept in ports.

"Xaver has developed into hurricane force and it'll be quite dangerous along the North Sea shore," said Andreas Friedrich, a German weather service meteorologist.

"The truly dangerous thing about this storm is that the winds will continue for hours and won't let up. The danger of coastal flooding is high." [more]

Hurricane Xaver batters Scotland as Germany braces for storm


Waves from extreme storm Xaver hit Britain on 5 December 2013. Photo: havley / YouTube

LONDON, 5 December 2013 (Associated Press) – Hurricane-force gusts hit Britain on Thursday, halting trains, disrupting air travel and leaving tens of thousands of homes without electricity. Accidents linked to the storm killed two people.

Authorities evacuated some 10,000 homes along the eastern English coast after warning that the country could face its worst tidal surge in 60 years. The Thames Barrier - a series of huge metal plates that can be raised across the entire river - was being closed Thursday to protect London from the surge.

Rescue teams had to ferry residents to safety by boat in north Wales, while officials in other areas handed out sandbags and set up emergency shelters.

Transport troubles were reported throughout northwestern Europe as commuters raced home to ride out the storm. […]

The German Weather Service said the storm front, which was gathering strength as it headed eastward from the Atlantic Ocean off Greenland, would also bring polar air to Europe. Snow was expected in some low-lying areas.

The storm plowed into Scotland overnight, slamming the highlands with gusts up to 142 miles (229 kilometers) per hour. Train services were suspended for much of the day, but began to run fitfully later as some routes were cleared of debris.  […]

Other corners of Europe braced for the worst. Forecasters predicted winds gusting up to 87 mph (140 kph) along Germany's North Sea coast.

Ferry operators canceled services to some of Germany's North Sea islands and the country's national railway, Deutsche Bahn, warned of likely disruptions across a swathe of northern Germany.

German authorities reported flooding on the tiny low-lying North Sea islands of Langeness and Hooge near Denmark, the DPA news agency reported. Residents protected their homes with sandbags and other barriers against the rising waters, but none of the houses - all built on raised foundations - were thought to be in immediate danger.

Still, Langeness mayor Heike Hinrichsen warned if the seas rose as high as predicted, the "waves of the North Sea will be lapping at the houses."

"Nobody on the islands will be closing their eyes tonight," said Langeness resident Fiede Nissen. "It's already tense."

Almost all flights to and from Hamburg airport in northern Germany were canceled late Thursday.

The Netherlands braced for the storm by closing water barriers that protect the low-lying country from high tides. The Oosterscheldekering in the southwestern delta region was being closed to protect the land behind it for the first time since 2007. [more]

Extreme Windstorm Xaver Batters Europe

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