Hurricane-force winds disrupted transport and power supplies in Scotland and threatened coastal flooding in England as they closed on northern Europe in what meteorologists said could be one of the most powerful storms to hit the continent in years.
British authorities announced the Thames Barrier, designed to protect London from flooding during exceptional tides, would close on Thursday night and warned of “the most serious coastal tidal surge for over 60 years in England”. Prime Minister David Cameron called a meeting to discuss strategy.
One person was killed as winds of up to 225 km/hr slammed into parts of the Scottish highlands, Britain’s weather office said. More than 80,000 homes were left without power, according to energy company SSE.
That number was expected to rise with road connections blocked by fallen trees and debris. A lorry driver was killed and four people injured when his vehicle overturned and collided with other vehicles in West Lothian, police said.
Tidal surge predicted
All train services in Scotland were suspended shortly after 8 a.m. local time until further notice due to debris on the tracks caused by storm Xaver. Glasgow’s Central Station was evacuated after part of a glass roof collapsed, ScotRail said.
Low-lying coastal areas in eastern England were particularly vulnerable to a predicted tidal surge. Sea defences have been built up considerably since storms and flooding killed hundreds on the North Sea coast in 1953.
Authorities in Germany’s northern port city of Hamburg have issued warnings about the dangers of the winds, which some forecasters are saying could be as powerful as a deadly storm and ensuing flood that hit the city in 1962 and killed 315.
The city on the Elbe River was preparing for a direct hit by the storm on Thursday. Many schools and Christmas markets were closed as the storm neared and dozens of flights to and from Germany’s second city were cancelled.
Ferries to Germany’s North Sea islands were kept in ports.
Won’t let up
“Xaver has developed into hurricane force and it’ll be quite dangerous along the North Sea shore,” said Andreas Friedrich, a German weather service meteorologist.
“The truly dangerous thing about this storm is that the winds will continue for hours and won’t let up. The danger of coastal flooding is high.”
Friedrich said people were being advised to stay indoors across northern Germany because of the dangers such as trees being toppled and parts of roofs blown off. The weather service has issued an extreme weather warning for the northern states of Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and Bremen.
In Ireland, Northern Ireland Electricity said 6,500 homes were without power after severe gale force winds with gusts of 100 km/h damaged the power network while another 10,000 customers lower power but had their services restored during the night.