Storm Eunice killed at least seven people in Europe on Friday, as it battered Britain with non-record winds and forced millions to shelter as it disrupted flights, trains and ferries across Western Europe.
London was eerily empty after the British capital was put under its first “red” weather warning, meaning there was a “risk to life”. By nightfall, police there said a woman in her 30s had died after a tree fell on the car she was traveling in.
Meanwhile, a man in his 50s has been killed in northwest England after debris hit the windshield of a car he was traveling in, according to Merseyside Police.
Outside Britain, falling trees killed three people in the Netherlands and a man in his 60s in southeastern Ireland, while a 79-year-old Canadian man died in Belgium, according to officials in each country.
Also in London, the highest level of weather warnings was announced in southern England, southern Wales and the Netherlands, with many schools closed and rail travel paralyzed, as towering waves breached sea walls along the coasts.
Meanwhile, Eunice’s winds have caused power outages to more than 140,000 homes in England, mostly in the southwest, and 80,000 properties in Ireland, utility companies said.
Around the British capital, three people were taken to hospital after suffering injuries in the storm, and storms tore a large part of the roof of the capital’s Millennium Dome.
The Met Office said a single gust of 122 miles (196 kilometres) per hour was measured on the Isle of Wight off southern England, “the highest temporarily recorded in England”.
At Tan Hill Inn, Britain’s highest pub in Yorkshire, staff were busy preparing even as the winds remained gusty in the north of England.
“But now that it’s snowing, and the wind is picking up, we’re blocking the vents, preparing for a bad day and a worse night,” pub maintenance worker Angus Leslie told AFP.
The tail of the Atlantic storm could pack a ‘stinging jet’, Stinggate scientists said, a rare meteorological phenomenon that wreaked havoc on Britain and northern France in the ‘Great Storm’ of 1987.
Eunice’s waves caused heavy waves to hit the Brittany coast in northwest France, while Belgium, Denmark and Sweden issued weather warnings. Long-distance and regional trains stopped in northern Germany.
Ferries across the Channel, the world’s busiest shipping lane, were suspended before the English port of Dover reopened in the late afternoon.
Hundreds of flights were canceled or delayed at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports and Amsterdam’s Seafoll. An easyJet flight from Bordeaux had a thwarted landing at Gatwick – which saw peak winds of 78mph – before being forced back to the French city.
“We should all follow advice and take precautions to keep us safe,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has put the British military on alert, wrote in a tweet.
Environment Agency official Roy Stokes has warned weather watchers and amateur photographers not to head to Britain’s southern coast in search of dramatic footage, calling it “probably the stupidest thing you can do”.
Climate effect? The streets of London at rush hour, where activity slowly returned to pre-pandemic levels, were virtually deserted as many heeded government advice to stay home.
Trains to the capital were already running with limited services on the morning commute, with speed limits in place, before seven rail operators in England suspended all operations.
The London fire brigade declared a “major accident” after receiving 550 emergency calls in just over two hours – although it complained that many were “unhelpful”, including one resident who complained about a trampoline in a neighbour’s park.
The RAC Breakdown Service said it was receiving an unusually low number of callouts on Britain’s main roads, suggesting motorists are “taking weather warnings seriously and not getting off”.
On Thursday, Prince Charles’ office said the storm had forced Prince Charles, heir to the throne, to postpone a trip to south Wales on Friday “in the interests of public safety”.
Another storm, Dudley, caused transport disruptions and power outages when it hit Britain on Wednesday, although the damage was not extensive.
Experts said the frequency and intensity of storms could not necessarily be linked to climate change.
But Richard Allan, professor of climate sciences at the University of Reading, said global warming is leading to torrential rains and rising sea levels.
Therefore, he said, “Coastal storm surge and prolonged flooding will only get worse when these rare explosive storms hit us in a warmer world.”