Hurricane force winds struck Paris and northern Francewithout warning today, causing extensive damage and killingsix people. The storm lasted only a few minutes, but struckParis with 80mph winds.

The event was associated with a fast-moving cold front, butwas not anticipated and is not understood.

At Versailles, trees were uprooted. The grounds of theancient palace were devastated by a massive windstorm in 1999.

A quarter of a million homes were without power acrossnorthern France, and in Normandy bridges had to be closed.The French national weather service warned that high windswere expected to continue and spread southward during the night.

Freak storms and violent weather have become a feature ofworld weather in the past five years, as the process ofsudden climate change, which will take five to ten yearsmore, gains momentum.

2004 was one of the most violent weather years on record,and among the most costly ever to thepropertyinsurance industry.

More and more violent weather is likely to take place infuture years, as the effects of global warming become moreintense.

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