Britain battered as ‘weather bomb’ brings landslides and travel chaos

  • >> Stephen Castle, The New York Times
    Published: 2020-02-17 03:17:07 BdST

Britain has been battered by severe weather for the second consecutive weekend, prompting an official warning Sunday that lives were at risk as streets became flooded, mud flowed, rail tracks were submerged and dozens of flights were cancelled.

The storm, named Dennis and classified as a “weather bomb” by the national weather service, the Meteorological Office, unleashed wind gusts of 91 mph, becoming one of the most intense winter storms to grip the North Atlantic. The term weather bomb is applied when the air pressure of a storm drops by a certain measure in 24 hours, causing huge turbulence and high wind speeds.

The impact on the ground brought chaos to parts of England, Wales and Scotland, with more than half a month’s worth of rain falling in one day. In addition, the body of a teenager was pulled from the sea during the storm, and a man died after he apparently fell overboard from a ship moored off the coast. On Sunday, police in Wales said another man had lost his life after falling into a river.

A pedestrian's Union flag umbrella is turned inside out by the wind at Oxford Street during Storm Dennis in London, Britain February 16, 2020. Reuters

A pedestrian's Union flag umbrella is turned inside out by the wind at Oxford Street during Storm Dennis in London, Britain February 16, 2020. Reuters

The extreme weather slammed areas that were still recovering from last week’s storm, Ciara. That storm, called Sabine in German-speaking countries, tore through Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and Poland with winds of more than 90 mph. It left at least five people dead and forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights, train services and sports matches.

At least 170 flights were cancelled Sunday, a weekend that is especially busy in Britain because of a weeklong school vacation. A red warning for parts of Wales early Sunday expired around 11 a.m., but most of Britain remained under an amber alert, the second-highest warning after red.

Also Sunday, about 320 flood warnings were issued across the country, including in South Wales, where fast-flowing or deep floodwater caused by the storm posed a risk to life, the Met Office said. It added that 109.4 millimetres of rain (about 4.3 inches) had already fallen in Tredegar, a town in southeast Wales, since 4am Friday.

“We are urging people to follow the safety advice from officials and to keep a close eye on the latest Met Office weather warnings,” said Andy Page, the chief meteorologist at the Met Office.

At Nantgarw, a village in south Wales, vehicles were left submerged and families had to be rescued by emergency workers.

In south Wales, footage online showed a landslide on a mountain in Tylorstown after heavy rain.

Cars underwater in Taff Wells, South Wales, Britain, February 16, 2020. Reuters

Cars underwater in Taff Wells, South Wales, Britain, February 16, 2020. Reuters

Sarah Bridge, 55, who lives in South Herefordshire, close to England’s border with Wales, told the BBC that she and her neighbours were shocked by the ferocity of the weather.

“Storm Dennis came like a tornado,” she said. “It hit us very badly Saturday evening.” She said it had burst through flood doors installed after a previous episode.

In West Yorkshire, in the north of England, soldiers were readying flood defences and preparing to step in if the waters rose and stranded residents.

In western Scotland, people were advised not to travel, and the severe weather forced ferry services to be cancelled.

Jeremy Parr, head of flood management for Natural Resources Wales, an environmental agency, warned people to take extra care if they needed to travel.

“If you are out, take extreme caution and never drive or walk through floodwaters,” he said.

Last year, residents of Whaley Bridge, a small town in northern England, were ordered to evacuate after a dam on a 19th-century reservoir that looms above their homes was

seriously damaged by heavy downpours.

 

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