A strong winter storm that has battered Europe with hurricane-force winds and heavy rains has reportedly killed several people and caused severe travel disruptions.

Members of the fire brigade help with the clean up efforts in Hebden Bridge, northern England, on February 10, 2020, after flooding brought by Storm Ciara.
Members of the fire brigade help with the clean up efforts in Hebden Bridge, northern England, on February 10, 2020, after flooding brought by Storm Ciara. (AFP)

As Storm Ciara batters the UK and northern Europe with hurricane-force winds and heavy rains, hundreds of flights, trains, and ferry services have been delayed or cancelled. 

Farmers' markets, sports, and cultural events were canceled as authorities urged millions of people to stay indoors, away from falling tree branches. The storm also prompted authorities in some regions to close schools as a precaution.

Here is a look at how the storm has impacted the region.

Monday, February 10

Deaths linked to storm reported

There were reports of deaths directly linked to the storm with three drivers, one in the southwest of the Czech Republic, one in the north of Slovenia, and another in southern England, killed after their cars were hit by falling trees.

Two people also died in Poland after the storm ripped off a roof of a ski rental equipment building in the mountain resort of Bukowina Tatrzanska, near the border with Slovakia, and sent it hurtling onto people standing near a ski lift, police said.

Two others were injured too.

In Sweden, one man drowned after the boat he and another person were sailing in on the southern lake of Fegen capsized. The victim was washed ashore and later died. The other person is still missing, according to the Aftonbladet daily.

Several injured in Germany 

At least three people have been seriously injured as Storm Ciara battered Germany, lashing the country with high winds that forced the rail operator to suspend intercity trains.

Two women were badly hurt by a falling tree in Saarbruecken on the French border, with one of them receiving life-threatening injuries, police said overnight.

Further north in Paderborn, a 16-year-old boy was hit on the head by a falling branch.

Flood warnings remain

More than 170 flood warnings remained in place early on Monday, mostly across northern England and along the southern coast.

Storm expected in Norway, Sweden

The storm was also expected to smash into southern Norway's coast and hit southern and western parts of Sweden.

Sunday, February 9

UK on alert

Britain, which bore the brunt of the storm with widespread flooding across the north, remained on alert with the Meteorological Office warning of strong winds, heavy rain and snow.

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 156 kilometres per hour (97 mph).

UK's Met Office issued more than 250 flood warnings, and public safety agencies urged people to avoid travel and the temptation to take selfies as floodwaters rose. 

Residents in the town of Appleby-in-Westmorland in northwest England battled to protect their homes amid severe flooding as the River Eden burst its banks.

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

Flights delayed, cancelled

Dozens of flights were cancelled at London airports due to heavy wind. 

Heathrow Airport and several airlines consolidated flights Sunday to reduce the number of cancellations. 

British Airways offered to rebook customers for domestic and European flights out of Heathrow, Gatwick and London City airports. Virgin Airlines cancelled some flights.

Lufthansa airlines said there would be numerous cancellations and delays beginning Sunday afternoon and running until at least Tuesday morning. 

The airline planned to keep operating long-haul flights at its main Frankfurt hub. Eurowings, a budget subsidiary of Lufthansa, canceled most flights for the duration of the storm.

Brussels Airport also saw delays or cancellations.

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.

UK companies warn passengers not to travel

At least 10 rail companies in Britain sent out “do not travel” warnings, while nearly 20 others told passengers to expect extensive delays. 

The strong winds damaged electrical wires and littered train tracks with broken tree limbs and other debris, including a family trampoline.

Huge crowds of stranded, frustrated travellers were seen at London’s King's Cross and Euston train stations. Train crews planned to work all night to try to restore service, but Monday morning commutes were expected to be long and chaotic.

German Deutsche Bahn cancels trains

In Germany, where the storm was known as "Sabine,” national railway operator Deutsche Bahn cancelled long-distance trains to destinations most at risk, including Emden and Norddeich in Germany's northwestern corner, the northern city of Kiel and the North Sea island of Sylt.

"We have learned from previous storms that it's better not to have trains travel into critical regions in the first place,” Deutsche Bahn spokesman Achim Stauss said. “What we want to avoid is trains getting stuck between stations.”

Teams of railway employees fanned out with chainsaws to remove any fallen trees blocking the tracks.

Dover and Calais operations hit by storm

Two huge ports on either side of the English Channel, Dover in England and Calais in France, shut down operations amid high waves. Dover was partially reopened after being closed for 10 hours. Ferries stopped running there and across the region, including in the turbulent Irish Sea and North Sea.

The Humber Bridge in northern England also shut down, a move its website said was only the second time the massive bridge had been entirely closed.

Scotland, Ireland affected

The Met Office said most of the UK likely had seen the worst of Ciara by 9 pm, when the storm had moved on to northeastern Scotland. However, forecasters predicted more blustery weather Monday, including much colder temperatures and snow in some northern areas.

“While Storm Ciara is clearing away, that doesn't mean we're entering a quieter period of weather,” Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said. “Blizzards aren't out of the question."

In Ireland, an estimated 10,000 homes, farms and businesses had their power knocked out Sunday. 

National weather agency Met Eireann warned that a combination of high tides, high seas and stormy conditions had created a significant risk of coastal flooding, particularly in the west and northwest.

Electricity knocked out in northern France

Swathes of northern France were put on orange alert and 130,000 homes had electricity cut off amid fears of coastal storm surges.

Paris authorities sent out a warning to residents and tourists alike to stay indoors for their own safety.

Ciara was heading south through France on Monday with the electricity network company Enedis reporting outages from Brittany in the west to the centre and east.

Meteo-France noted wind speeds of 130 kilometres per hour along the coast and predicted highs of 200 kph (120 miles).

Schools shut in Germany and Luxembourg

Luxembourg and the German city of Cologne announced that all school children could stay home Monday to avoid travelling under dangerous conditions.

Flights cancelled out of Copenhagen

In Denmark, meteorologists warned about possible hurricane-force winds coming late Sunday, and flights were cancelled out of Copenhagen. 

Danish authorities warned motorists not to cross large bridges, including the Great Belt Bridge that links eastern and western parts of Denmark.

Belgium on orange alert

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 injuries.

The whole Belgian offshore wind farm was shut down as powerful gusts caused the turbines to stop automatically for safety reasons.

British Airways flies less than five hours

The storm, named by the UK's Met Office weather agency, brought gales across the country and delivered gusts of 97 mph (156 kph) to the Isle of Wight and 93 mph (150 kph) to the village of Aberdaron in northern Wales. 

Propelled by the fierce winds, a British Airways plane was thought to have made the fastest New York-to-London flight by a conventional airliner.

The Boeing 747-436 completed the 3,500-mile transatlantic journey in 4 hours and 56 minutes, landing 102 minutes early and reaching a top speed of 1,327 kph (825 mph), according to flight tracking website Flightradar24. 

Two Virgin Airlines flights also roared across the Atlantic, with all three smashing the previous subsonic New York-to-London record of 5 hours and 13 minutes, Flightradar24 reported.

Sporting events called off

In the world of sports, dozens of soccer games, horse races, rugby matches and other events were called off, including the Premier League match between Manchester City and West Ham. 

A 10K run in London that was expected to draw 25,000 participants was also cancelled.

The Dutch football association called off all matches Sunday in the top-flight league due to safety concerns, as did Belgium’s top two soccer leagues, the Jupiler Pro League and Proximus League. A German soccer league match between title challenger Borussia Moenchengladbach and Cologne was also put off.

Dutch cyclists press on

Yet in the Netherlands, an intrepid band of cyclists made the most of the wild conditions to take part in the Dutch Headwind Cycling Championships.

Using only basic bikes without gears, lightweight frames or drop handlebars, contestants rode a timed 8.5-kilometre (5.3-mile) course along the coast of southern Zeeland province. Blasted by winds, blinded by blowing sand from nearby beaches, the cyclists struggled to stay upright.

“I survived, but it’s very tough,” said Hans Deting, 56, his right hand dripping with blood after being blown off his bike.

"This is a bucket list thing,” rider Edwin van Gaalen explained, as he leaned on his handlebars, gasping for breath after finishing.

Ultimately, the gale-force winds became too strong even for this macho event. Organisers brought the race to an early end after 250 of the 300 riders had finished.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies