Wednesday, October 30, 2013

European version of Sandy?

The St. Jude's Storm wasn't a hurricane, but it came nearly a year to the day after Sandy battered the United States' coastline from New Jersey to Rhode Island.

And it was the worst storm to hit much of Europe in at least a decade.

So named because it roared across the United Kingdom and into the European mainland Monday, which is St. Jude's feast day in some Christian denominations, the storm killed 15, caused millions of dollars' damage, and left hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses without power.

It was another reminder that Europe is certainly not immune to Atlantic-bred storms.

Some of the storm's fuel came from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lorenzo in the eastern Atlantic, but the system was a cold-core storm -- definitely not tropical. Meteorologists had plenty of warning, and the southern parts of Wales and England were on alert when the storm made landfall Monday morning.

After ripping across the United Kingdom, the storm plowed into the European mainland, damaging northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and southern Sweden. Then it pushed eastward, battering the Baltic nations (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) before roaring into Russia near St. Petersburg.

A 14-year-old boy playing in the surf on the southeast coast of England was washed out to sea. So was a woman on an island off the French coast. Nearly a dozen others were killed by falling trees.

Travel across the English Channel -- both above land (ferry) and below (Eurostar high-speed train) -- was halted for several hours.

Officials reported more than 270,000 power outages in Wales and England, and 30-foot waves battered the southern coast. Wind gusts of more than 100 mph were reported at gauges a short distance off the coast.

There were numerous reports of winds gusting around 80 mph in northern Europe.

About 100,000 power outages were reported in Latvia. At St. Petersburg, strong winds forced a rise in the Neva River, and the water level climbed 10 inches in an hour.

The St. Jude's Storm pales in comparison to the system called the worst ever to hit the United Kingdom -- on Nov. 26, 1703. That storm had winds of about 80 mph, but it hit heavily populated areas in an era when storm protection was a rarity. As a result, about 10,000 people were killed in south central England. Tens of thousands of trees were blown down.

Much of the Netherlands' coastal protection system was upgraded after a storm that struck Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 in 1953. Nearly 2,000 people died in that country when ocean water overwhelmed coastal communities. Another 2,000 deaths were reported in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe.