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Winds of up to 180 kilometers per hour (108 mph) battered France’s Atlantic coast overnight, as Storm Ciarán battered countries across Western Europe, uprooting trees, smashing windows and leaving 1.2 million French households without power on Thursday.
Heavy rain associated with the storm washed ashore in the southwestern tip of England, and the UK’s National Meteorological Service warned of the risk of flooding and urged people to take precautions. Dutch airline KLM has canceled all flights from early afternoon until the end of the day, due to persistent high wind speeds and strong storms expected in the Netherlands.
One weather-related death has already been confirmed in France. A truck driver was killed when his car crashed into a tree in the inland Aisne region of northern France, Transport Minister Clement Beaune said.
Almost all of France’s mainland coast was under severe weather warnings Thursday morning, from Calais on the English Channel all the way down the Atlantic beaches to Spain, as well as much of France’s Mediterranean coast and Corsica, according to national weather forecasters. French Meteorological Service.
The meteorological service reported record wind speeds of 108 mph (180 km/h) along the coast of Brittany. Wind speeds reached 96 mph (160 km/h) on the Normandy coast and up to 90 mph (150 km/h) inland. Waves of about 33 feet (10 meters) are expected in the northwestern tip of the country.
Local train traffic was canceled in a wide area of western France, and all roads in the Finistère region in Brittany were closed on Thursday morning. Boone urged people to avoid driving and at least use caution when traveling through areas with weather warnings.
“We see how deadly roads can be in these conditions,” he told France Info radio.
Enedis Electricity Company announced in a statement that the storm cut off electricity to about 1.2 million French families as of Thursday morning. This includes about half of the homes in Brittany, the Atlantic peninsula most affected by Hurricane Kieran. Enedis said it would deploy 3,000 workers to restore electricity as soon as weather conditions allow.
The national train authority, SNCF, canceled some regional trains in five eastern regions starting late Wednesday night. Express trains from Paris were eliminating intermediate stops on the way to Rennes and many other destinations.
In the United Kingdom, southern England and the Channel Islands were expected to see the worst of the storm. Floods are expected in 54 areas, according to the Environment Agency, most of them on the south coast of England.
Schools were closed in some coastal areas as a precaution. The UK Met Office has issued severe weather warnings for high waves and winds of around 80 mph (130 km/h) or more.
“The trees are covered in leaves at the moment, so it’s a little heavier up there,” Met Office meteorologist Rachel Ayers said as the storm approached on Wednesday. “This increases the risk of them falling as well as the leaves around them, which increases drainage problems.”
Authorities urged people in southern England to work from home, and train companies advised passengers not to travel on roads in and out of London before 9 a.m. Thursday, as tracks were checked for fallen trees and debris, according to the Press Association news agency.
Henson said the stormy weather is the result of a branch of the jet stream — a stationary band of strong winds high above the Earth’s surface and moving from west to east — heading toward northern Europe. A storm is caused by the interaction between what happens near the surface and a few miles above the Earth’s surface.
“It looks like a once-in-a-few-years storm for the U.K. and France,” but Ciaran could turn into a “once-in-a-generation storm,” said Bob Henson, a meteorologist and science writer at Yale Climate Connections.
Frederik Otto of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London studies the extent to which global warming causes extreme weather events.
She said there are few studies on whether wind speeds are increasing due to climate change, and understanding is hampered by the fact that there are few observations of wind speeds made in the distant past.
But rainfall associated with such storms has increased due to human-induced climate change, because a warmer atmosphere can hold more moisture that should fall as rain. She said the science was “pretty clear” on this, with precipitation increasing by 7% for every 1.8°C (1.8°F) of global warming.
She added that heavy rains lead to more damage, and rising sea levels due to global warming also lead to more devastating storms.
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