LONDON (AFP) – Hundreds of flights and train services were cancelled across northwest Europe on Monday as Storm Ciara swept in packing powerful winds after lashing Britain and Ireland, where tens of thousands of homes were left without power.
Swathes of northern France were placed on orange alert with people advised to avoid the coast due to possible storm surges.
Britain, which bore the brunt of the storm Sunday with widespread flooding across the north of the country, remained on alert with the Meteorological Office warning of strong winds, heavy rain and snow.
“While Storm Ciara is clearing away, that doesn’’ mean we’re entering a quieter period of weather,” Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said.
“It’s going to stay very unsettled,” he said, warning “blizzards aren’t out of the question”.
Transport was disrupted across the country with planes, trains and ferries cancelled or delayed after Ciara brought torrential rains and hurricane-force winds.
The highest wind speed recorded was 150 kilometres per hour (93 mph) in the northwest Welsh village of Aberdaron.
At Wet Sleddale Reservoir in northwest England’s Lake District national park, more than 150 millimetres of rain fell in a 24-hour period.
More than 170 flood warnings remained in place early Monday, mostly across northern England and along the southern coast.
The West Yorkshire towns of Hebden Bridge and neighbouring Mytholmroyd were among the worst hit by the storm, with streets inundated and cars submerged in the floodwaters.
As of Sunday evening, 62,000 homes across Britain were still without electricity, the Energy Networks Association said.
Dozens of flights have been cancelled or delayed and rail companies have urged passengers not to travel and operated reduced timetables and speed restrictions.
Channel ferry services between Dover and the French port of Calais were halted Sunday until further notice.
In Ireland, which was on orange alert for the risk of flooding in coastal regions, 10,000 homes, farms and businesses were left without power.
Belgium was also on orange alert and around 60 flights to and from Brussels had been cancelled. In the capital, trees and scaffolding were toppled and some buildings damaged but there were no casualties.
The whole Belgian offshore wind farm was shut down as powerful gusts caused the turbines to stop automatically for safety reasons.
In Germany, mainline train services were suspended.
The storm was so violent that “we are forced to completely stop mainline train traffic in Germany this Sunday evening,” Deutsche Bahn spokesman Achim Stauss told AFP.
A train between Amsterdam and Berlin with 300 to 350 people on board hit a fallen tree but was able to reach the nearest station after two hours.
Several airports in Germany had to cancel flights as the storm swept in from the north. Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Cologne and Hanover were among those affected, while at Dusseldorf, 120 flights were scrapped on Sunday.
About 240 flights to and from Amsterdam Schiphol, the third-busiest airport in Europe, were also cancelled, largely affecting KLM, British Airways, easyJet and Lufthansa services.
Northern France was bracing for winds of up to 140 kph.
In the Hauts-de-France region bordering Belgium and the Channel, residents were asked to limit their travel and avoid walking in forests due to the risk of falling trees.
And for British Airways there was one upside to Storm Ciara – the airline recorded its fastest-ever flight between New York and London, thanks to tailwinds from the storm.
According to flight-tracking website Flightradar24, it completed the transatlantic crossing in a mere four hours 56 minutes, the fastest sub-sonic crossing.