When it comes to predicting weather patterns, Whitley Strieber's forecasts are uncannily accurate. Beginning last summer, Unknown Country's Climate Watch began warning that violent weather would be seen in Europe and that flooding would be likely during the winter months. That prediction has now come to pass, as last Thursday Northern Europe saw ferocious storms which caused the biggest tidal surge recorded for many decades.
Before the storm hit, a spokesperson from Britain's environment agency advised the public that the "surge along the east coast of England is expected to be the worst for more than 60 years." This proved to be a valid warning as the storm went on to wreak havoc over the North Sea coastline.
Ten people were killed or reported missing, and thousands more had to be evacuated from their homes in order to escape the rising sea waters. 15,000 families in Britain alone were forced to leave their belongings and head to rescue centers to wait out the storm. In Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, all services were all on high alert and flood defenses were reinforced in order to minimise damage and casualties.
The storm claimed victims across several countries, with the dead including a British truck driver whose vehicle was blown over by fearsome winds in Scotland, and another Briton who was struck by a falling tree as he rode his scooter in Nottinghamshire, England. Elsewhere in Europe, two Filipino sailors were washed overboard in high seas as their ship was sailing off the Swedish coast, and their bodies have not yet been found. In Denmark, a van was toppled by gale force winds, killing its 72 year old lady driver.
The storm brought hurricane-force winds of up to 142 miles per hour (228 kilometres per hour), earning it the title of "Xaver". In northern Schleswig-Holstein state alone, emergency services were called out 2,000 times as road and rail accidents left four people injured, and the adverse conditions damaged ripped off house roofs and smashed windows. Across the rest of Europe, the emergency services fought to contain the situation as harbours flooded, and fallen trees damaged houses, roads, train lines and electricity power lines.
Felled power lines contributed to the chaos causing blackouts affecting 400,000 homes in Poland, and 4000 homes in Germany, with a further 50,000 families in Sweden being left without power. Travel was severely affected, as flights, ferry and train services were suspended all across Europe. In Hamburg, suburban commuter train was derailed when it collided with a fallen tree, leaving the tracks and hitting a bridge post. There were no fatalities but fire-fighters had to free six passengers from the wreckage.
Due to strong winds, many bridges had to be closed, including Europe's longest, the Oeresund road and rail bridge between Sweden and Denmark which was closed overnight but reopened early Friday as authorities scaled down the alert level from the maximum 3 to 2.It had been 60 years since a storm of similar ferocity had struck this region and the authorities were keen to avoid the same level of devastation that occurred back in 1953, when a storm surge resulted in the deaths of over 2000 people. It appears that their efforts to evacuate people out of danger zones combined with improvements in flood defenses and meteorogical forecasting helped to keep fatalities to a minimum, though the loss of life was still keenly felt.
For further insights into the world's weird weather, be sure to keep an eye on Climate Watch: (http://www.unknowncountry.com/climatewatch)