France, Britain, parts of western Europe hit by record winds of storm Ciaran

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Storm Ciaran battered northern France with record winds of nearly 200 km per hour, killing a lorry driver, while southern England and other parts of western Europe remained on high alert Thursday amid warnings of flooding, blackouts, and major travel disruptions.

Some 1.2 million French homes lost electricity overnight as the storm lashed the northwest coast, ripping trees out of the ground. The death was caused by a tree falling on the cabin of a heavy goods vehicle in the Aisne department, emergency services told AFP.

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“The wind gusts are exceptional in Brittany and many absolute records have been broken,” the national weather service Meteo-France said on X (formerly Twitter).

It said winds of 193 km/h (120 miles/h) had been recorded in the town of Plougonvelin on the very tip of the northwest coast, while the port city of Brest in Brittany saw gusts of 156 km/h.

In Cornwall in southern England, large waves powered by winds of 135 km/hour, crashed along the coastline on Thursday morn-ing, while hundreds of schools across the region were closed.

On the Channel Island of Jersey, residents had to be evacuated to hotels overnight as wind gusts of up to 164 km/hour damaged homes, according to local media.

The Netherlands also warned of powerful gusts of up to 100 km/h, with workers told to avoid commuting and 206 flights marked as cancelled at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, a major European hub.

Eurostar, which operates trains between the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, and the UK warned that traffic “could be disrupted” and advised travelers to postpone journeys if possible. Domestic rail and ferry services were also disrupted.

People carry a boat as they attempt to navigate through water as it flows through streets after heavy rain caused extensive flooding, ahead of the arrival of Storm Ciaran, in the city centre of Newry, Northern Ireland, on October 31, 2023. (Reuters)
People carry a boat as they attempt to navigate through water as it flows through streets after heavy rain caused extensive flooding, ahead of the arrival of Storm Ciaran, in the city centre of Newry, Northern Ireland, on October 31, 2023. (Reuters)

Roosmarijn Knol, weather forecaster for Dutch public broadcaster NOS, said the timing of the storm was important.

“Due to a warm autumn with a lot of rain, trees still have their leaves, and the ground is as wet as a sponge. Therefore, espe-cially weak trees have a good chance of falling over. That is a big difference from an autumn storm at, say, the end of November, when all the leaves have already fallen,” said Knol.

Train services disrupted

Britain’s Environment Agency warned of “significant flooding along parts of the south coast and along parts of the Yorkshire and Northeast coasts on Thursday.”

The road operator issued a severe weather alert and train operators urged commuters to work from home as lines were assessed for fallen trees and debris.

The effects of the storm were felt as far south as Spain and Portugal, where several regions were on red alert, fallen trees caused power cuts and train services were disrupted.

Rail services were limited in northern France and two regions were also placed on maximum flood alert.

In Pas-de-Calais, authorities opened gymnasiums and shelters for migrants who converge on the region, hoping to make it to Britain by boat.

Three French departments -- Finistere, Cotes-d’Armor and Manche -- had been placed on red storm alert, the highest level, at midnight, though this was downgraded early Thursday.

Read more: Storm Ciaran sparks weather alert across northwestern Europe

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