UK & Ireland’s most powerful storms of the last 34 years!

Written by on October 24, 2017 in Rest of Europe, Summer 2017, United Kingdom & Ireland with 0 Comments

Located in the northeast Atlantic Ocean, the British Isles and Ireland can be a very windy place at times. Exposed to the prevailing westerlies as well as full wrath of Atlantic storms, gales, severe gales and storm-force winds can occur much of the year. Autumn and winter are most frequent of course.

Some winters are rather benign with little storms, some more wintry than stormy like 2009-10 and others can bring one storm after the other like in winters 1989-90, 1992-93, 2006-07, 2011-12, 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Born in February 1983 I’ve lived through countless damaging storms. In fact, aged just 4 and living in central London, I first hand experienced the power of Britain’s worst storm in a generation, the Great Storm of 1987. Despite my young age and memories foggy, I still recall the night of October 15th to this day. This very event will always remain special as I believe this seeded my passion for weather and extremes today.

Where are the windiest parts of the UK

Credit: Met Office

I must admit I love a good strong and the sound of wind and rain battering my window at night. Over the last 18 months I have visited 3 of Scotland’s high mountain weather stations were gales can occur almost half the year.


Elevated at 4,080ft, Cairn Gorm is Britain’s 6th highest mountain and likely home to Britain’s wildest weather station where winds of 100mph can occur every month and holds the UK record for strongest wind ever recorded. The weather station has been in operation since 1978 and maintained by Herriot Watt University.

Credit: Mark Vogan

Credit: Mark Vogan

Last August saw Cairn Gorm record a wind gust of 115 mph. Back in December 2011, the exposed site recorded an official wind gust of 165 mph, coming close to it and the UK’s strongest ever gust of 173 mph set in March 1986.


Elevation 4,006ft, Aonach Mor is Britain’s 8th highest mountain. Open in 1991, the Met Office began recording wind speeds here since February 1992. The strongest wind gust ever measured at this site was 151 mph back in January 1993.

Credit: Mick Knapton

In December 2013 during Storm Xaver, Aonach Mor recorded a 142 mph wind gust. The strongest of the storm.

Credit: Mark Vogan


Elevation 3,061ft, this mountain site opened in 1993 and began recording in January 1994. The strongest ever wind gust for the site was 142 mph set in December 2008.

Credit: Wdgwdgwdg

Credit: Mark Vogan

Here’s a glance at some of the most noteworthy storms of my lifetime living in the UK.

Great Storm 1987

Deepest pressure: 953mb

Strongest wind gust: 135 mph

Cost: £1.5 billion

A system which formed in the Bay of Biscay and rapidly intensified as it tracked NE crossing northwest France up through the spine of southern England October 15-16, 1987. Within the storm centre pressure fell from 970mb to 953mb within 24 hours but rose by an incredible 20mb within 3 hours behind, a ‘sting jet’ accompanied this rare storm situation and gusts of wind reached 100 mph across a large swathe of southern England including Greater London with peak gusts of 107 mph within the capital where the damage was immense costing over £1 billion.

Over 15 million trees were flattened.

The strongest recorded wind gust of 135 mph was at Pointe du Roc, Granville Normandy. For England it was 122 mph at Gorleston, Norfolk and 120 mph at Shoreham-by-Sea.

February 1989

142 mph gust recorded at Kinnaird Head, Fraserburgh

In the midst of a very mild winter and month, a powerful depression crossed Scotland on 13 February 1989 which generated a wind gust of 142 mph at Kinnaird lighthouse in Fraserburgh. This set a new low level wind record for the UK.

Picture of Kinnaird lighthouse in a windy day below.

Source: Land of the Big Sky

Burn’s Day Storm 1990

On the 25 January 1998 the Burns Day storm struck. One of eight storms to sweep the UK and Ireland between January and March.

The synoptic chart for 12 GMT, 25 January 1990.

A deep low crosses the British Isles bringing storm-force winds to southern parts while blizzard conditions affected northern areas. 47 people lost their lives. Winds gusted over 92 mph on the west Wales, Cornwall and Kent coasts. Top gusts of 107 mph were recorded at Aberporth, Wales and Gwennap Head in Cornwall.

New Years Day storm 1992

Positioned well to the north of the British mainland, the Shetland Isles is a naturally windy place with an average of 8 days of gale-force winds during a typical January. However, the depression which crossed Shetland as the new year of 1992 broke was no ordinary one. Dubbed the ‘Hogmanay Hurricane’, Shetland witnessed one of it’s worst storms in living memory.
At midday on 31 December a 985mb low was heading east across the North Atlantic. By 1800 hours that low had deepened to 966mb. At the stroke of the bells, a 957mb low was just NW of Faroe and by 6am New Years day it was 947mb.
Muckle Flugga lighthouse on the island of Unst set a new mean wind speed record of 73kts (89mph) with unofficial gusts clocked at 173 mph. The recording instrument was destroyed and so this wind speed remains unofficial. Another unofficial reading was taken by an oil rig NE of Unst which measured a mean wind of 125 mph with gusts of 194 mph. Severe structural damage affected many across Shetland.

Braer Storm January 1993

It was a particularly stormy spell with one low after the next between January 8-17, 1993. One particular depression which became known as the Braer storm. Supported by a tight SSTA gradient, 270 mph jet stream and absorption of a secondary low to the SE, the Braer storm exploded becoming the deepest Atlantic low ever recorded with minimum central pressure of 914mb. The storm’s gale-force wind field was so vast it stretched from Canada to Europe.
Despite producing blizzard conditions across Scotland, the worst of the storm remained at sea as it was in a weakening phase prior to impacting the British Isles but not within producing a 121 mph gust on a weather ship Cumulus and North Rona off Scotland. The mainland reported gusts of 120 mph.

Boxing Day Storm 1998

A powerful low battered the UK from early Christmas Eve through 29 December but peaked on Boxing Day with mean winds of 60 mph lasting over 12 hours. The storm underwent rapid cyclogenesis as it departed Ireland and crossed Scotland with a 19mb pressure drop within just 3 hours, bottoming out at 947mb at it’s peak.
Malin Head, Donegal bore the brunt of the strongest winds located on the storm’s southern flank. Sustained winds clocked 77 mph over a 10 minute average with gusts of 110 mph, just 3 mph shy of this site’s strongest ever wind gust of 113 mph set in 1961. Prestwick Airport, Ayrshire recorded a gust of 103 mph while even Glasgow suffered damaging gusts of 93 mph.

Cyclone Oratia 2000

An extremely intense depression which formed southwest of Ireland on 28 October 2000. This like many powerful lows underwent bombogenesis with pressure falling an astonishing 53mb within 18 hours as it passed south of Ireland and cut a path NNE across England and Wales. Pressure bottomed out at 941mb and over land, 951mb over England. This rapidly intensifying system developed such features as a sting jet which forced strongest winds downwards from a 150 mph jet aloft. Worst winds affected southern England and Wales with gusts in excess of 90 mph.

January 2005 storms

Two particularly stormy spells hit Ireland and UK. First being 7-8th and second 11-12th January 2000 with both resulting in widespread damage and new wind speed records.

The first system which saw a central pressure drop to 962mb focused it’s strongest winds on northern England with gusts of 127 mph recorded at Shap.

January 7/8 – as a very deep depression (reaching 962 mb) tracked north-eastwards across southern Scotland, strong winds battered England and Wales particularly northern areas. The tiny island of North Rona off Scotland to the west of Orkney recorded a gust of 134 mph, South Uist recorded 105 mph. Gusts in excess of 70 knots (81 mph) were recorded from the Isle of Man and north Wales across to the coast of north-east England. 88 knots (101 m.p.h.) was recorded at St Bees Head (Cumbria) and 89 knots (102 m.p.h.) at Aberdaron on the Lleyn peninsula (Gwynedd).

The second low saw a minimum pressure of 944mb with focus of strongest winds across Scotland where widespread gales caused disruption and for the first time since the Boxing Day storm of 1998, the complete closures and the Forth and Tay road bridges.

Barra recorded a gust of 106 mph while Stornoway clocked a 101 mph gust

January 2007 storms

A mild but frequently wet and windy spell peaked with a series of deep lows crossing the UK during January 2007. One particular storm between 17-18 January brought 99 mph gusts to Needles, Isle of Wight, 93 mph gusts to Dublin. Worst of the storm affected mainland Europe.


Ex Hurricane Katia 2011

Katia initially formed off Africa and crossed the tropical Atlantic becoming a Category 4 monster a few hundred miles north of Puerto Rico. Luckily for US, it remained a fish storm taking the familiar route around the Bermuda high. The typical transition process took place and Katia re intensified into a deep extra tropical cyclone and battered the Northern UK. According to the Met Office, this was the strongest former hurricane to hit the UK since Lili in 1996.


Cairngorm Summit recorded a gust of 98 mph while low elevation Capel Curig recorded a gust of 81 mph.

49ft waves were generated off Ireland’s Atlantic coast. Wind wiped sand along the Irish coast.

Credit: Niallio77

Storm Series December-January 2011/12

An incredibly active stormy pattern in which mere days separated intense Atlantic depressions.

‘Hurricane Bawbag’ 8 December 2011

A series of intense lows swept the British Isles between November 2011 and January 2012. The most notable system hit on 8 December, 2011 with the issuance of a red weather warning for the Central Belt.

As the system approached the UK, rapid cyclogenesis occurred with a pressure drop of 44mb within 24 hours and dubbed a weather bomb. This rapid intensification forced the red warning and aided in extreme wind gusts over the Cairngorms.

The pressure bottomed out at 956mb with Scotland bore the brunt of widespread gusts of 70-80 mph. Cairngorm summit recorded an exceptional mean wind speed of 117 mph with a gust of 165 mph.

Credit: Met Office

Credit: Met Office

Credit: Met Office

High waves, white caps and foam streaks off the west coast of Scotland during storm “Friedhelm” on 8th December 2011 as photographed from about 450m above sea level onboard the UK research aircraft FAAM BAe146. (Credit: Peter Knippertz)

‘Cyclone Hergen’ 13 December storm 2011

Just days following Hurricane Bawbag and another storm of great ferocity developed off Newfoundland. Bottoming out at 945mb off NW Ireland, wave heights of 67ft were generated off the Donegal coast.

‘Storm Ulli’ 31 December 2011

Considered worst storm since Boxing Day 1998, winds gusted to a damaging 102 mph in Edinburgh, 105 mph at Malin Head, 106 mph at Great Dun Fell.

3 January storm 2012

4th monster storm within 4 weeks and another even deeper depression hits bringing further destructive winds to the main population areas of Scotland.

Some of the more notable wind gusts include.

Blackford Hill, Edinburgh reported a record gust of 102 mph while Glasgow Bishopton recorded a record 90 mph, 112 mph at Great Dun Fell, 96 mph at Salsburgh, Lanarkshire, 93 mph at High Bradfield.

Ex-Hurricane Bertha 2012

Rainfall was probably the most noteworthy aspect to this storm. However, winds gusting 62 mph at Tain Range and 61 mph at Lossiemouth knocked out power. Cairngorm recorded a gust of 108 mph.

Credit: Met Office

Bertha contributed to August 2012 being the wettest on record for northern Scotland.

Credit: Met Office

Winter Storms 2013-14

Thanks to a large temperature differential over North America, the Atlantic atmosphere hosted a super charged jet stream which drove a conveyor belt of depressions one after the other with rapid succession into Western Europe.

The period between mid December 2013 and early January 2014, particularly 18-31 December saw the greatest frequency and bombardment of unusually deep lows into the UK. This made December 2013 stormiest on record probably followed by December 2011.

Storm of 5-6 December (North Sea Tidal flood)

Widespread severe gales for Scotland with gusts of 93 mph at Altnaharra but the prize goes to Aonach Mor where an incredible gust of 142 mph followed not far behind by a 136 mph gust over Cairngorm. In England a 112 mph gust was recorded at Great Dun Fell.

Credit: Met Office

Credit: Met Office

Storm of 18-19 December

An intense 947mb low close to NW Scotland generated particularly severe gusts over the Highland ridges with 125 mph over Cairngorm, 124 mph on Aonach Mor, 115 mph on Bealach na ba, 100 mph on Cairnwell.

Credit: Met Office

Storm of 23-24 December

This storm dipped to an even more extreme depth of 927mb once again close to NW Scotland. Stornoway reported a sea level pressure of 936mb, the UK’s lowest since 1886 (127 years)

Credit: Met Office

Once again much of Scotland endured 70-80 mph damaging gusts but the most extreme gusts yet again were focused over the Highlands with 117 mph clocked on Cairngorm.

Though windy, the 23-24th storm will be remembered for it’s big flooding rains across southern England and Wales

Storm of 26-27 December

This deep low focused it’s strongest winds across England and Wales this time with Aberdaron and Capel Curig reporting gusts of 109 mph and 94 mph respectively. However, Cairngorm still won the prize for highest gust of 136 mph.

Credit: Met Office

Storm of 30-31 December

This system was more noted as a heavy rain rather than strong wind producer.

Credit: Met Office

Winter 2013-14 will be long remembered as wettest with high frequency extreme lows which brought intense wind, rain, mountain snow.

Storm Desmond December 2015 (UK’s new wettest 24 hours on record)

A near identical low/high pressure setup developed early December 2015 as November 2009 when a deep tropical moisture plume connected Cumbria’s upslopes with the Caribbean. November 2009 saw the UK’s wettest 24 hour period on record until Storm Desmond came along in late 2015.

From Met Office:

Storm Frank 29-30 December 2015

Storm Frank became a monster low with an astonishing 50mb pressure drop within just 12 hours over Iceland. The low became unusually deep!

Credit: RGS Weather

With a long fetch of moist SW winds extending down into the subtropics, flash flooding occurred over many parts of Scotland.

Frank was responsible for record rainfall in Aberdeenshire.

Credit: Nick Mitchell

Winds were destructive across parts of Scotland despite the centre of the storm up over Iceland.

Gusts exceeded 80 mph across the Northern Isles but once again Cairngorm reported an impressive gust of 132 mph.

Credit: Met Office

Frank also drove tremendous heat all the way to the pole with temperatures going from -20s (average is -28C) to 0C.

 Storm Gertrude 29 January 2016

At the end of January, Storm Gertrude not only brought another stormy spell but a wintry spell.

While the worst conditions affected the far northern mainland and Northern Isles, gusts in excess of 80 mph through the Central Belt caused damage and widespread disruption.

Gertrude brought the strongest winds to Shetland in 16 years. Both Lerwick and Baltasound recording a gust of 105 mph, strongest since January 2000.

Incredible scenes off Shetland.

Credit: Stewart Thomson ‏@StewartThomson4

From the North Sea.

Many woke to a fresh covering of snow and through the day, winds brought blizzard conditions across parts of the Highlands.

Credit: Mark Vogan

Nightmare rush hour!

Credit: Traffic Scotland

My daughter Holly got to enjoy her first taste of sledging thanks to Gertrude.

Credit: Mark Vogan

Storm Imogen 7-8 February 2016

Storm Imogen swept across Ireland and the British Isles as a major storm with gusts of 96 mph recorded at Needles, Isle of Wight.

Credit: PA

However the long fetch of hurricane-force winds extending some 1,000 miles back across the Atlantic and the towering seas generated was probably the most notable aspect.

Credit: earth nullschool

Wave heights of 54ft were reported off Ireland while 62ft was reported off St Ive’s, Cornwall.

Storm Angus 19-22 November 2016

The first named storm of the 2016-17 season and Storm Angus brought disruptive winds through the Channel with damage along parts of the South Coast where gusts exceeded 80 mph and rainfall topped 2 inches across inland parts.

Credit: Met Office

Stormy Irish Sea and English Channel waters proved tricky for shipping. The collision between a commercial barge and passenger ferry. Passengers were stranded on heaving seas for up to 26 hours before docking at Fishguard.

Strongest winds hit 81 mph at Langdon Bay, Kent but Guernsey Airport reported a gust of 84 mph. Ships reported gusts of 106 mph over the open Channel.

Ferries arrive at the port of Dover as Storm Angus hit the UK with gusts anticipated to reach up to 80mph.

Wild Christmas Weekend 2016

It was a wild Christmas weekend 2016 with two major storms systems dominating from early Christmas Eve through to late Boxing day. Wild swings in temperature, 80+mph low level wind gusts and 120+mph gusts over high ground on each of the three days…

Storm Barbara Christmas Eve 2016

Storm Barbara packed the greatest punch to the Northern and Western Isles where gusts topped 83 mph at Stella Ness and 117 mph over Cairngorm. However, the greatest winds remained offshore where wave heights of up to 50ft were recorded on K5 buoy a couple of hundred miles off Lewis.

Snow was the most noteworthy aspect to Barbara where she created blizzard-like conditions in the Highlands.

Slochd Summit Credit: Mark Vogan

Storm Conor Christmas Day 2016

Christmas Eve’s Storm Barbara was immediately followed by much more intense Storm Conor which brought a weird, wacky and wild Christmas Day 2016 with peak gusts of 148 mph over Cairngorm, exceptional pre-frontal warmth followed by a last minute post cold frontal white Christmas.

First came the warmth

Credit: Met Office

and the big waves…

Credit: Calum Toogood ‏@CalumToogood

Then the snow for a last minute white Christmas as turned.

Credit: Met Office

Then came Boxing Day’s gales and snow across a broader area of Scotland.

Credit: BBC Weather

Winds were strongest during Christmas Day with Cairngorm recording a peak gust of 148 mph while Boxing Day delivered a bitter gust of 125 mph.

At around 6am, Cairngorm was reporting an air temperature of -7.5C but by that evening it shot up to +11C.

Storm Doris 23 February 2017

Storm Doris arrived just in time for my birthday and underwent bomogenesis with a pressure fall of 24mb within 24 hours prior to hitting the UK. Winds were damaging with Capel Curig recording the highest gust of 94 mph.

Credit: Met Office

It was another white birthday for me thanks to Doris.

BBC Weather


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