Hurricane Force Winds Batter the U.K. and Europe, Planes Set Speed Records From U.S. to U.K.

Storm Ciara hits Newhaven, on England’s southern coast       Photo: Matt Dunham, AP

Storm Ciara battered the U.K. and northern Europe with hurricane-force winds and heavy rains Sunday, grounding thousands of flights and canceling trains across the continent, and producing heaving seas that closed down ports — even the English Premier League had to cancel games as authorities urged millions of people to avoid the outdoors due to falling trees and downed power lines.  And the next severe storm is expected to pound Europe again with very strong winds, and snow and heavy rainfall into the weekend, according to The Washington Post. CNN reported that the winds were so strong a British Airways plane flew from the New York to London in under 5 hours — a record for a conventional airliner — topping out at 825mph according to Flightradar24, thanks to a “supercharged” jetstream.

Why This Matters:  Severe travel disruptions, power outages, coastal flooding and weather damage to cars and property, and yes, even soccer (or football as they say there) games had to be canceled.  The winds were hurricane strength and they were not just on the coast, but well inland too — wreaking havoc in Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Scandinavia.  The wind was so strong it cut more than an hour off of the average flight time between New York and London — an hour. The UK weather office called it the storm of the century, but that could prove to be a misnomer.  The U.K. climate modelers believe that though there may not be more storms, the storms they get in Europe will bring wilder winds and more precipitation.  If global temperatures rise by more than 1.5 degrees, as they are currently projected to do, severe storms will cause 50 percent more damage, the Met Office said in the 2017 research.  This comes after a summer in which Europe saw scorching heat, shattering those records.

Hurricane Force Winds 

The storm, according to the U.K.’s weather agency, packed a gale-force punch across the country, with recorded gusts of 97 mph on the Isle of Wight and 93 mph in northern Wales.  Airlines canceled flights in the U.K. at the major airports, in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo and Frankfurt, Germany because of the wind and those flights that were in the air as the storm hit had difficulty landing. Thousands of passengers were stranded at London’s major rail stations overnight Sunday into Monday while crews worked all night to restore service and Monday commutes were disrupted as well. BBC’s main television channel went down during the storm, ironically during a segment on climate change.  Paris authorities warned residents and tourists to stay indoors, and Germany also canceled long-haul train service.  Ports on both sides of the English Channel were forced to close, and so were bridges, and many cities canceled school on Monday.  Things were just getting back to normal on Tuesday.

Fastest Flights

There were three flights Sunday that actually beat the previous record set in 2018 by more than 15 minutes.  The British Air flight that was the fastest of the three was clocked going considerably faster than the speed of sound — 767 mph — but it did not break the sonic barrier because it was being pushed by the air around it.  A spokesperson for British Airways told CNN, “We always prioritize safety over speed records, but our highly trained pilots made the most of the conditions to get customers back to London well ahead of time.”

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