Weather warnings as an Atlantic storm brings a North Sea storm surge to parts of the UK – Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes last night as a tidal surge struck the east coast of England.
The North Sea surge, predicted to be the worst in 60 years, was caused by an Atlantic storm that brought very strong winds to northern parts of the UK yesterday with widespread gusts of 60-80mph.
The Met Office continues to issue ‘national severe’ weather warnings. This morning’s shipping forecast warns of northwesterly severe gale force 9 winds rising to violent storm 11, plus a very high, rough sea state.
The Environment Agency, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and Natural Resources Wales have also issued numerous severe flood warnings for the coastline that stretches from North Lincolnshire to Kent.
Flood waters have receding in many areas but there are expected to be further high tides later today.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) lifeboat station in Wells was flooded during yesterday’s storm surge. It was one of nine RNLI lifeboat stations flooded or damaged by the weather.
What is a storm surge?
This is a very localised rising of sea level – independent of tides – related to the track of a storm and its accompanying winds.
The storm causes this surge of water in two ways. Firstly strong winds, often blowing parallel to the coast or onshore, push water roughly in their direction which causes water to ‘pile up’ on nearby coasts.
The second element, which is less important for the UK, relates to differences in air pressure. Low pressure, associated with storms, exerts less of a force on the sea surface – allowing the sea surface to temporarily rise in the vicinity of low pressure.
Local geography also plays a role. North Sea areas are particularly prone to storm surges because water flowing into the shallower southern end cannot escape quickly through the narrow Dover Strait and the English Channel. The shallow depths in the southern North Sea also aid the development of a large surge.
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A major Atlantic storm has struck parts of England and Wales leaving three people dead and a trail of devastation in its wake. Several sailors were rescued in the build-up to the St Jude’s Storm, which battered boats along the southern regions of the United Kingdom.
Cruise passengers’ cars were damaged when ‘severe seas and 70mph winds’ hit the Port of Dover.
The Met Office recorded a maximum wind gust of 99mph at 6am at Needles Old Battery, Isle of Wight.
Three people have been reported dead: a teenager in Kent and a man in Watford were killed by falling trees, another man was found dead in a collapsed house in west London after a falling tree caused a suspected gas explosion.
A teenager is also feared dead after being swept out to sea, while swimming off Newhaven’s West Beach, yesterday afternoon.
Weather warnings were issued by the Met Office ahead of the storm’s arrival and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) called for boat owners to secure their vessels and then ‘stay away from the sea.’
But for some, last-minute preparations resulted in rescues.
Yesterday morning, Poole all-weather lifeboat was tasked to assist two people on an eight-metre yacht, who had got into difficulty while securing the cruiser’s lines in Poole Harbour.
As they prepared for the imminent storms, the yacht slipped its mooring and drifted into Whitley Lake, on the north eastern corner of Poole Harbour.
The lifeboat crew found the vessel heeled over in a precarious position and aground. The lifeboat crew attached a line to the yacht but could not get alongside in the shallow water. The inshore lifeboat attended and helped to get the vessel afloat and upright.
The yacht was returned to its mooring and made secure.
RNLI volunteer deputy coxswain Glen Mallen said: ‘With conditions worsening, the vessel would have not weathered the storm, it was a challenge to get it upright with the conditions out in the Harbour, but a job well done.’
Marooned as the storm approached
The Dart D Class lifeboat also rescued two yachtsmen trapped on their yacht as a storm approached.
The two sailors were marooned on their 28ft Falmouth workboat, moored above Dittisham on the River Dart. They had gone to check the yacht in their small inflatable tender with an outboard. By the time they had finished the weather conditions had deteriorated and with a severe storm approaching, they requested help.
They were taken on board the lifeboat and taken in near gale conditions, with their tender, to Dittisham.
Car damage at Europe’s busiest international ferry port
The Port of Dover has now re-opened and ferry services have resumed from the Eastern Docks with the Port’s tugs in assistance to ensure the safety of its customers.
Whilst there has only been some relatively minor superficial damage to the Eastern Docks, the Western Docks bore the brunt of the storm with around 50 Fred Olsen cruise customer cars, parked at the terminal, being damaged by the severe seas overtopping breakwaters in the high winds which at times were gusting above 70 miles per hour.
The Port of Dover confirms it will be providing every assistance to its cruise customers in dealing with insurance claims, onward travel arrangements or any other requirement to support them following this very unfortunate turn of events.
Mike Rodwell, Managing Director at Fred Olsen Cruise Lines, said: ‘Together with the Port of Dover, we will do everything we possibly can to ensure that none of our customers is inconvenienced due to this storm and will be liaising closely with them to prepare for their arrival in Dover next week.’
As severe weather is forecast over the weekend boaters are advised to secure their mooring lines and check their boat, or ask their marina to do it. Boaters should brace themselves for severe weather and storms over the weekend and into next week, says the Met Office.
There will be heavy spells of rain and strong winds over the next couple of days, while on Sunday night and Monday morning there is a risk that a significant storm could develop, with the southern half of the UK expected to be worst hit and the potential for winds of more than 80mph, particularly along the coast.
Eddy Carroll, chief forecaster at the Met Office, said: “This storm doesn’t exist at the moment, but our forecasts models predict it is likely to develop in the west Atlantic on Saturday. Then it’s likely to rapidly intensify just west of the UK late on Sunday before tracking across England and Wales early on Monday.
“There is still a chance this storm may take a more southerly track and miss the UK, bringing impacts elsewhere in northern Europe, but people should be aware there is a risk of severe weather and significant disruption. With that in mind, people should keep up to date with and act on the advice in our forecasts and warnings as the situation develops.”
Meanwhile, Barry Goldman, chief operating officer for the Port of Jersey, said boatowners should check their moorings ahead of the predicted weather.