Storm Eunice batters England and Ireland, sowing chaos with record winds

Waves crash against the sea wall at Porthcawl, south Wales, on Feb 18, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

ABERYSTWYTH, WALES (REUTERS) - An Atlantic storm battered Britain and Ireland on Friday (Feb 18) with record winds of up to 196kmh, knocking out power for tens of thousands of people, forcing planes to abort landings, uprooting trees and ripping off roofs across the land.

Storm Eunice, which brewed in the central Atlantic and was spun up from the Azores towards Europe by the jet stream, has extreme wind speeds that pose a danger to life, Britain's Meteorological Office said.

The storm hit England's western coast, making landfall in Cornwall, where waves lashed the coast, sending plumes of spray over the roofs of cottages, a Reuters reporter said.

In Wales, waves crashed over Aberystwyth promenade, some as high as houses. More than 100,000 people were hit by power cuts as lines were torn down and ancient trees keeled over.

In London, gusts shook tall buildings and blew off parts of the roof of the Millennium Dome, footage posted online showed.

"Storm Eunice is really packing a punch," Met Office Chief Meteorologist Frank Saunders said. "We only issue red weather warnings when we think there is a threat to life from the weather."

"Storm Eunice will bring damaging gusts in what could be one of the most impactful storms to affect southern and central parts of the UK for a few years," Met Office chief meteorologist Frank Saunders said.

The Met Office said a gust of 122 miles per hour (196kmh) was recorded at The Needles on the Isle of Wight, provisionally a record for the most powerful gust ever recorded in England.

Planes were buffeted so strongly by gusts at some airports that pilots were forced to abandon landings. Airlines cancelled dozens of flights while some flights sought safer landings at other airports.

More than 100,000 buildings were left without power, distributors said. Ferries and trains cancelled.

"Storm Eunice – There will be NO Transport for Wales trains running on this date," an announcement board said at Aberystwyth station. All trains in Kent, southern England, were cancelled.

"We are closing all routes in Kent, and all lines in SE London are blocked by trees,” Network Rail Kent & Sussex said. "Please do not travel." BA said there it was cancelling a number of flights and that there would be significant disruption.

Danish ferry operator DFDS said in a statement posted on Twitter that its ferries between Dover and Calais have been suspended due to high winds.

Such red warnings are relatively rare. The last one issued was in November 2021. Scotland has issued yellow warnings for heavy snow.

The British government will hold a COBRA emergency response meeting to discuss the response to the storm.

Britain’s security minister, Damian Hinds, said troops were on standby to deal with the consequences of the weather.

"We should all follow the advice and take precautions to keep safe," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. "I thank responders for all their efforts."

Such red weather warnings are relatively rare. The last one issued was in November 2021.

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