Category 3 hurricane-force winds struck southwest France and Spain with deadly power last Saturday, cutting electricity to 1.9 million households, closing airports and putting a nuclear plant on alert. At least 12 people died.
The French weather service Meteo France sent out a red alert, saying the storm may be as strong as one in December 1999. In France, the Aquitaine and Roussilon regions bore the brunt of the storm, shutting roads, airports and rail traffic. “Major damage should be expected,” Meteo France said.
At 6 p.m. local time, winds had subsided in southwest France as the storm moved from the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean. Waves up to 8 meters (at least 26 feet) were experienced close to shore in the Bay of Biscay. High winds of 150 to 175 kilometers per hour (93 to 111 mph) caused power outages affecting about 1.7 million people in France, and 200,000 in Spain.
The storm started hammering the Atlantic coast of Aquitaine at 4 a.m. As of 4:30 p.m., 78 power substations and 100 high-voltage and very high-voltage lines were out of order. The impact of the storm has been felt from the Channel Isles to Barcelona, but the strongest winds and heaviest rain were concentrated on the French south-west.
Saturday’s storm track : courtesy BBC
Although this type of active low pressure system is fairly common in winter, Saturday’s storm is being described as the most damaging since that of December 1999 which killed 88 people.
The force of the storm led to the closure of airports in Bordeaux, Pau, Biarritz and Toulouse, train services also ground to a halt.
We’ll be back soon with more news and photos as soon as we’ve finishing fixing the holes in our roofs from tiles that decided to go walk-about.