By Danica Kirka
Millions of people in the U.K. were urged to cancel travel plans and stay indoors Friday as the second major storm this week prompted warnings of high winds and flying debris across northern Europe.
Britain’s weather service said Storm Eunice, known as Storm Zeynep in Germany, was likely to cause significant disruption and dangerous conditions, with gusts that may exceed 90 miles per hour in highly exposed coastal areas. The Met Office later said a 122 mph gust was recorded on the Isle of Wight, provisionally the strongest ever recorded in England.
Authorities in the U.K. took the unusual step of issuing ”red’’ warnings — indicating a danger to life — for parts of southwest England between 7 a.m. and noon and for southeast England and London from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. A lower level amber warning for gusts up to 80 mph covers the whole of England from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Eunice is the second named storm to hit Europe in two days, with the first storm killing at least five people in Germany and Poland. Peter Inness, a meteorologist at the University of Reading in England, attributed the storms to an unusually strong jet stream over the eastern Atlantic Ocean, with winds close to 200 mph at high altitudes.
“A strong jet stream like this can act like a production line for storms, generating a new storm every day or two,” Inness said. “There have been many occasions in the recent past when two or more damaging storms have passed across the U.K. and other parts of Europe in the space of a few days."
Waves crash against the sea wall and Porthcawl Lighthouse in Porthcawl, Bridgend, Wales,, Britain, as Storm Eunice makes landfall Friday, Feb. 18, 2022. Millions of Britons are being urged to cancel travel plans and stay indoors Friday amid fears of high winds and flying debris as the second major storm this week prompted a rare “red” weather warning across southern England. ( Jacob King/PA via AP)
Even as Britain prepared for the brunt of the storm, Eunice was already disrupting travel across southern England and Wales with many train services interrupted and numerous flights cancelled. A number of tourist attractions in England, including the London Eye, Legoland and Warwick Castle, closed ahead of the storm, as did the Royal Parks. Sections of the 02 Arena roof ripped off in the storm.
“I urge all Londoners to stay at home, do not take risks, and do not travel unless it is absolutely essential,″ Mayor Sadiq Khan said.
The U.K. government is set to hold a meeting of its COBRA emergency committee to discuss the storm. The Army is on “high readiness stand-by” to respond if needed, Home Office Minister Damian Hinds told Sky News.
The Environment Agency has issued 10 severe flood warnings, another indicator of life-threatening weather conditions.
“After the impacts from Storm Dudley for many on Wednesday, Storm Eunice will bring damaging gusts in what could be one of the most impactful storms to affect southern and central parts of the U.K. for a few years,” said Paul Gundersen, the Met Office’s chief meteorologist. “The red warning areas indicate a significant danger to life as extremely strong winds provide the potential for damage to structures and flying debris.”
The storm is expected to hit northern Germany on Friday afternoon and sweep eastward overnight. A flood warning was issued for Germany’s North Sea coast on Friday. Meteorologists warned Friday’s storm could cause more damage than the earlier weather system, which triggered accidents that killed at least three people, toppled trees and damaged roofs and railroad tracks.
Germany’s biggest rail operator, Deutsche Bahn, is canceling all train connections in the north of the country Friday due to the storm.
“Safety first,” it said on its website.
The Dutch weather institute issued its highest warning, code red, for coastal regions of the Netherlands and code orange for much of the rest of the country as the storm bore down on the low-lying nation. The country’s rail company said it would halt all trains nationwide from 2 p.m. (1300 GMT) . The airline KLM cancelled dozens of flights at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.
At Scheveningen beach in The Hague, authorities built walls sand to protect beachfront bars from the storm, even as dozens of surfers braved the weather in search of storm-driven waves.
The Dutch soccer association postponed all professional and amateur matches scheduled for Friday.
Storm Eunice has produced heightened concern because it has the potential to produce a “sting jet,” a small area of intense winds that may exceed 100 mph.
One example of such a phenomenon occurred during what’s known as the Great Storm of 1987, which killed 18 people and knocked down 15 million trees across the U.K., according to the Met Office.
Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society, described the phenomenon as being akin to a scorpion in the sky.
“It's often referred to as a sting-jet because it’s like it’s the sting in the tail as the storm moves through,'' she said. “Other people have almost depicted like a curling scorpions tail in the cloud ... And that’s usually the bit where the strong winds are — right on the tip of that curl of cloud.”
Train operators across Britain urged passengers to avoid traveling on Friday and many services shut down.
British Airways warned of delays at London’s Heathrow Airport because the weather has reduced the rate at which aircraft are permitted to land.
The government highway agency said high-sided vehicles and other “vulnerable” vehicles such as caravans and motorbikes could be blown over so should avoid bridges and viaducts.
Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London who is part of World Weather Attribution, which investigates the link between extreme weather and global warming, said there is no evidence climate change is leading to more violent storms in Europe.
But she said the damage caused by such storms has increased because rainfall has become more intense as a result of human-caused climate change.
“And the second thing is that sea levels have risen. This means that storm floods, which also occurs during such storms, is higher and therefore leads to greater damage than there would be without climate change.”
Associated Press reporters Mike Corder in The Hague, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Jill Lawless in London and Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen contributed.