Powerful Storm Slams Europe With 142 mph Winds, Worst Storm Surge Since ’53

Written by on December 5, 2013 in Rest of Europe, United Kingdom & Ireland with 3 Comments

As forecast, the much anticipated, rapidly intensifying storm which forecasters have been closely watching for days struck northern Britain early this morning.

The storm which formed rapidly over the northeast Atlantic to the south of Iceland and close to Scotland was fuelled and energised by a large thermal gradient and supported from above by a mighty 160kt+ jet stream which a strong low level sub-tropical jet raced in from the sub-tropics which added the additional injection of energy which often separates these beats from regular Atlantic storm systems.

Check out the ECMWF jet stream chart and note winds are racing across the UK at 160kts.

Courtesy/Owned by AccuWeather Pro

Courtesy/Owned by AccuWeather Pro

Top winds struck between 4-6am across the North with gusts in many spots exceeding 90-100 mph. A top gust of 142 mph was recorded at Aonach Mor, 116 mph at Ness, Isle of Skye (unofficial) and between 6-9am, the Central Lowlands bore the brunt of the storm with gusts reaching 106 mph at Glen Ogle, Stirlingshire. The Cat 2-3 hurricane-force gusts were accompanied by blinding rain, even thunder and lightning, representative of the high octane energy suspended within the atmosphere. The powerful, destructive and disruptive system caused widespread headaches right across the country as trees we’re falling all around like matchsticks, no match the to strength of the wind. The falling of large trees obviously played a key role in the loss of power to some 100,000 people in Scotland alone, also forcing the closure 195 schools and the complete shut down of Scotland’s rail network. The transport infrastructure including all the major bridges also closed.

Check out this frightening image of a truck dangling on the edge of the Friarton Bridge at Perth.

Friarton Bridge, Perth, Scotland (Courtesy of Daily Mail)

Friarton Bridge, Perth, Scotland (Courtesy of Daily Mail)

All major road bridges were closed for a time today due to the winds. The Forth Road Bridge was shut as winds were clocked at 91 mph, deemed unsafe for vehicles to travel across.

Here’s a rare view of the abandoned bridge earlier today. The last time the bridge was closed was back when Scotland and Northern England was slammed by a series of powerful storms back in December and January 2011.

Forth Road Bridge (Courtesy of Daily Mail)

Forth Road Bridge (Courtesy of Daily Mail)

Here was one of many road signs I saw snapped due to the hurricane-force gusts over high ground near Stranraer.

Courtesy of Mark Vogan

Courtesy of Mark Vogan

It wasn’t just Scotland but south of the border, winds were equally as dangerous and destructive. Top gusts reached an impressive 112 mph at Great Dun Fell while a gust to 87 mph was recorded at High Bradfield, near Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Countless reports of overturned lorries across a large area.


So why were winds so strong?

Thank or blame all the ingredients coming together RAPIDLY… A rapidly deepening low, say from 998 to 972mb within 18 to 24 hrs as in this case and you draw in both sub-tropical and arctic air inwards at an accelerating rate with a powerful jet stream aloft which forces the air to rise beneath one section of the jet, it often descends in another, that being the front right entrance region. The transfer of energy from aloft down to the surface, frequently results in stronger than typical winds at the surface despite the storm’s pressure within the centre being particularly low.

Courtesy/Owned by AccuWeather Pro

Courtesy/Owned by AccuWeather Pro

Although the pressure field has somewhat spread out with the centre now over southern Norway, there was at one stage this morning, a pressure of 1028mb over southwest England while it was down to 972 near Shetland, that’s a very tightly squeezed pressure field and of course the tighter the pressure gradient, the stronger the winds blow.

It turned cold this afternoon with snow showers impacting many areas this afternoon. Here was the scene over Fenwick Moor, Ayrshire this afternoon.

Courtesy of Mark Vogan

Courtesy of Mark Vogan

The mighty winds are now making full impact on southern Scandinavia, Denmark and Germany tonight while the arctic air on the backside settles over the UK. With winds set to fall light overnight, a widespread, hard frost is expected with a significant ice risk by dawn Friday.

Courtesy/Owned by AccuWeather Pro

Courtesy/Owned by AccuWeather Pro

Worst Tidal Surge Since ’53

While winds ease throughout the UK despite still blowing at gale-force along the East Coast, the strong winds funnelling down the North Sea, combined with high tide is currently producing significant coastal flooding caused by a tidal storm surge. This is impacting coastal communities up and down Britain’s North Sea Coast as well as on the other side along Belgium, the Netherland’s, Denmark and Germany’s coast with sea water lapping up against buildings which sit by the sea.

Here’s a common sight this evening unfortunately.

Scarborough tonight (Via Paul Hudson)

Scarborough tonight (Via Paul Hudson)

It’s said that this is the worst North Sea tidal storm surge since 1953 according to the Environment Agency.

Finally, here are a couple of video’s I captured of the wind and waves battering SW Scotland this morning.

If you don’t like it cold, the good news is that after the bitter chill of tomorrow with highs stuck at between -2 and 3C over Scotland and Northern England, it warms dramatically Saturday with a WSW flow returning.


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  1. Michael says:

    The storm has now left and the wind has subsided a little with no storm in the mean wind anymore. Still storm gusts many places, though. it will problably be quite windy untill tomorrow, Saturday, they say. Unfortunatlely our Viking Ship museum in Roskilde is under pressure from the storm surge in Roskilde Fjord. We hope that the museum can stand against the pressure from the water as the 1000 year old ships are irreplacable.

  2. Michael says:

    The storm struck Denmark with full force yesterday with hurricane gusts many places and is still raging today with full storm along some of the coasts and with gusts of storm force many places inland. Usually the fishermen at the west coast of Jutland never complain when it’s stormy, but yesterday a few were a bit shocked by the power of this storm. That was rather unususal. Trees have fallen, rooftops have been ripped of and many of the marine harbours have been totally devastated due to the powerful winds from Northwest. And fjords and Northern coastlines are flooded today due to the surge that has been pushed southward. Most bridges connecting the islands and also the one connecting Denmark to Sweden are closed today. This is one of the most powerful and long lasting storms in many years here in Denmark. Fortunately there was no damage for me personally this time, but many people were not as fortunate as I was. Right now as I write strong gusts are still hammering on the wall and windows and making the walls crackling and squirking. According to the forecasts the strong winds won’t subside before the days is over. This is a special storm indeed.

  3. Julie Grey says:

    We were very lucky here in SW Ireland bit windy for awhile but nothing compared to what happened in other places! Hope everyone is OK this morning!

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