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October 27, 2013

The Angry Sea
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 10:28 PM * 38 comments

Britain braces for worst storm in years

It’s going to be a long night in southern Britain.

The region is getting hammered by a major Atlantic storm, which could be its worst in years.

Strong winds blew and heavy rains fell late Sunday. Conditions are expected to worsen as the night progresses.

Stay safe, folks.

See also: Why They Dim the Lights in Mousehole; Many other Making Light posts on emergency preparedness; foul weather, hypothermia, and safety.

Comments on The Angry Sea:
#1 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 04:02 AM:

Lots of broken branches on the streets of London but nothing much worse than that. Yet.

Had I been foolish enough to try cycling into work then I would very possibly have been underneath this when it happened, though...

#2 ::: James E is visiting the gnomes ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 04:03 AM:

Possibly for linking to a certain popular social networking site. Cup of mouth-crinklingly vile black coffee?

#3 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 04:32 AM:

It's also brewing up here in the Netherlands, where I've been visiting Abi & Martin the last few days. Winds of 80-120 kph expected by noon today. It's currently just past 9:30 AM and already pretty blustery out there.

As I observed on Twitter, today is one day before the first anniversary of Sandy's landfall...

#4 ::: James E ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 05:23 AM:

Was Sandy also preceded by loads of smug smartarses loudly declaring it a fuss over nothing? Because there's been a lot of that here and, while I hope they turn out to be right, it's just a little presumptuous to do it before the storm's even reached its peak in major population centres.

#5 ::: David Langford ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 06:55 AM:

All OK here (Reading, Berkshire), although a tree came down on the far side of our road and blocked one lane. Since our road is the A4, emergency services had pretty well cleared that by the time we woke up around 7:30am. One misses a lot of excitement by sleeping at the back of the house, as far as possible from perpetual traffic noise.

Although the BBC is reporting two deaths and 220,000 homes without power, people I know seem to be unscathed. Fingers crossed for no worse news.

#6 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 07:33 AM:

I'm in central Amsterdam, and the emergency services have asked that everyone stay indoors during the peak of the storm (about now). We lost power briefly, but it's back now.

The IJ is nearly empty of boats. The train tracks that run outside my office are silent. Planes still come overhead from time to time; Schiphol apparently has one runway open (it's the only one not affected by crosswinds).

Two people have died in Amsterdam from falling trees, and there's a fairly dramatic picture of a houseboat sunken by a fallen tree. Apparently, it went down within 15 minutes of being hit.

Very dramatic, all of this.

#7 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 08:39 AM:

We're fine, with no visible damage to trees or buildings in the area, and we even had rather nice blue skies earlier, although it's been quite windy out there and it's presently raining again.

Gusts of up to 99 mph were recorded on the Isle of Wight (just off the south coast).

My husband has called in and told his boss he'll have to work from home today as the local train lines are not running yet. Apparently there are a lot of trees and branches down on the lines and the train company are not running trains until Network Rail confirm that the lines are clear. It's late enough now that it would be a bit silly for him to go in even if they start running again in the next hour or two. That station they were showing earlier on the BBC websites, Charing Cross, with almost no trains on the boards and only one visible would-be passenger - that's where he should have been heading to.

I'd call it three deaths, since it seems unlikely that the teenager who decided to play "chicken" with the waves yesterday is going to be found alive - they're not even out searching at the moment as conditions are unsuitable. Sympathies to his parents.

Keep safe, everyone.

#8 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 08:52 AM:

#4 James E.

Was Sandy also preceded by loads of smug smartarses loudly declaring it a fuss over nothing?

Yes. Though you won't have found many of 'em here on Making Light. We take emergency prep seriously in these parts.

#10 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 09:07 AM:

Better safe and feeling faintly foolish than sorry as hell, I always say. Thanks to all who are checking in -- I worry about my far-flung friends at times like these.

#11 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 09:58 AM:

Lenore apparently got out of Heathrow just before they started cancelling flights. Glad she made it home safe, given this storm.

My sympathies to the families of those who died, and to all who have lost property or had it damaged.

Sandy remained dangerous for several days after the storm itself departed (the power was out here, but there were power lines in the water, tree limbs that were damaged but not yet fallen, and water that was a lot deeper than it looked* - not to mention that a lot of people had electric heat). Please listen to official advice and don't go out until they say it's safe in your area.

*I remember (re)discovering that the "curbstone" peeking out of the water after a day or two was not a curbstone at all, but the top of a 4-foot retaining wall the base of which was the top of the curb.

#12 ::: Mongoose ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 09:58 AM:

I was in the amber weather alert zone. There's been nothing worse here than a bit of rain; the wind hasn't been anything out of the ordinary. I've been gathering information from friends in various parts of the UK, and it seems that London and the south-east have been quite badly hit, but other southern areas have got off reasonably lightly.

My best friend (who's in Hertfordshire) drove past five fallen trees on his way to work this morning, but the wind wasn't causing him any difficulty driving. He also, with some amusement, quoted a BBC report to the effect that "there are currently no fallen trees on the London Underground". For those who don't know, there are quite a lot of above-ground bits, but it did sound rather odd.

A later update from another friend said this had changed, and there were now fallen trees in two areas. It does, however, sound as though they were considerate enough to wait till the rush hour was over before they fell.

#13 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 10:37 AM:

What we didn't learn from Superstorm Sandy

Our infrastructure is not prepared for the climate we've had in the past, let alone the one we'll have in the future.

#14 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 11:19 AM:

Things are not too bad here in North Lincolnshire. Wind speeds under 25mph/40kph, which is bad enough. One of the local MPs, returning to London, tweeted that trains were not going south of Peterborough, though that is more a case of railway administration rather then actual location of damage.

The weather radar I saw showed an overnight belt of rain, and the wind was much less, so we maybe got more rain than some.

#15 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 01:12 PM:

A bit windy yesterday in central Scotland, but not too bad. A report from a friend in the NE of London is that it was windy, trains disrupted, but where they lived was sheltered so no problems.

There was one incident with a falling tree and a gas pipe, which apparently caused an explosion and you can see a lot of damage to some houses, but everyone got out okay.

As for my flat, the roof ridge was re-cemented a couple of years ago after some flew off in the 100mph winds, and we just had the end of the roof re-mortered, which was cheaper and quicker than that quick fit plastic roof edging stuff. I don't see any advantage to the latter over normal cement, especially since it blows off too.

Now all I need to do is buy a couple more cans of vegetables and find the meths bottle and I'm sorted for the winter.

#16 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 01:29 PM:

Patrick (#3): today is one day before the first anniversary of Sandy's landfall...

...and Sandy hit the northeastern US instead of blowing on across the sea to fetch up in the British Isles the way such storms usually do, because it was blocked by a high-pressure system over Greenland.

#17 ::: duckbunny ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 02:35 PM:

The power was out at work (in Somerset) and not expected to be back for six hours at least, so we all had an unexpected day off. I'd rather have been getting on with my work, to be perfectly frank. There'll be an awful backlog tomorrow.

#18 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 02:35 PM:

Nothing much happened where I am, but obviously some part of the country had it worse.
Interesting post by Ross Anderson on how much better specific warnings are than vaguer ones (though of course the uncertainty of weather prediction limits how specific you can be about some things): How to deal with emergencies better

#19 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 03:29 PM:

ALan Braggins @18--Here in the US, I live in one of the more tornado-prone areas--the so-called Dixie Alley, as opposed to the Tornado Alley of the Great Plains.

Tornado prediction and warnings have become more and more precise over the years--when I was a child, there might be a warning that the potential for tornadoes existed, based on certain weather factors (the Tornado Watch) or, maybe, if someone who saw one was able to contact the correct authorities, a tornado would be reported as in contact with the ground, and appearing to be headed in X direction (the Tornado Warning--these are terms of art, and should not be confused). Many people ignored the former, and if you got the latter, good luck on getting it in enough time to do you any good. With better forecasting tools, including the wonders of Doppler radar, we not only get more lead time in the crucial warnings, but forecasters can give us a better idea of the storm's track, and a tornado is the sort of storm where a mile or two makes an immense difference. But the public--the people the warnings are aimed at--have had to learn new responses. The old warnings were either too vague, or came too late to be helpful. Coming to grips with an effective warning system has its own challenges.

We've also had (at least in my part of Tennessee) an increased awareness of flood risks, both from precipitation and from the failure of dams. It's possible to get flood risk maps--but getting people to stop and look at them, and understand what they mean is something else altogether. Between the people who don't want to believe anything bad can happen, ever, and those who require such specific warnings that they deny the validity of one that's even half-right, getting the public to pay any attention at all is hard. Getting the people who are the experts to express the risks in practical terms for the general public seems to be at least as hard.

#20 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 07:42 PM:

I was wrong, a man and a woman died when the tree triggered a gas explosion. Trees can do more than crush you.

I have trouble remembering what sort of warnings we got in the UK before this century. None? Some? People seem more interested in having them nowadays, even if some people ignore them. Maybe it's partly to do with more people commuting further and more disruption possible due to communications and transport problems. In 'the good old days' you'd just sit at home and be happy for the day off.

#21 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 08:10 PM:

Tips for the next one, from a town that gets hurricane-force winds so often that for much of my life we didn't even bother calling them hurricane-force winds:

1. If four able-bodied adults could tip it over, the wind can tip it over. Tie it down. That includes little putt-putt cars as well as small airplanes and travel trailers.

2. People always tape their windows, but unless you are facing a storm that actually has an eye, what you need to worry about most is your roof. Do not spend time in any structure that has a metal roof or similar flimsy construction. Glasshouses: absolutely not.

3. Now is the time when trees are tested to destruction. Because the body of the tree deals the damage, people tend to look up to assess danger. But you should look at the roots of the tree, not the branches. Is the ground visibly flexing? GET OUT.

4. Prepare to lose power. Review the safety measures to take if there is a snapped live wire in your neighborhood. Look at Jim Macdonald's tips for surviving without the juice.

5. Unless somebody in the house is going to be in danger if you stay put, you don't need to leave home. (Unless home has become dangerous, of course.)

#22 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 10:52 PM:

The weather has turned suddenly autumnal again in Colorado today. I expect that my apple trees will finally lose their leaves in the next few weeks. I worry about them occasionally as they often look quite pathetic under a load of snow, like the one we had last week before MileHiCon. It does not seem to do them permanent harm. Nearly the last trees with leaves on them in my neighborhood.

Best wishes to everyone at lower elevations.

#23 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 11:24 PM:

We had an October snowstorm a couple of years ago, and it did tremendous damage. Heavy snow on trees that haven't yet lost their leaves winds up breaking them and downing power lines.

Or at least that's what happens if such a storm hasn't happened for years previously. I expect after the snow-breakable branches are gone, they're gone.

#24 ::: SummerStorms ::: (view all by) ::: October 28, 2013, 11:42 PM:

We had wet, heavy, slushy snowfall last Wednesday night and into Thursday morning. Slushy as in it was even slush as it fell from the sky. Yet in many cases the trees had and still have retained a lot of their leaves -- I don't think we're even at peak color here in Northeast Ohio yet -- and many of the plants in my garden survived intact and still producing vegetables.

Then again, this area is kind of known for odd weather.

#25 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 08:48 AM:

I thought we'd come through pretty unscathed in my part of East Kent, but then found that my parent's walnut tree was at a slight but noticeable angle. While we were putting some props into place I managed to tap myself lightly in the groin with a large piece of wood. 24 hours later, it's funny.

#26 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 09:11 AM:

Xopher @ #23, something similar happened here a few years back: after leaf-drop, but it was the kind of heavy, wet snow (air temp just above freezing) we never, ever get. The one-block-long street that intersects with mine had FIVE trees fall across it; losses throughout the neighborhood were similar.

#27 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 10:29 AM:

Neil W @25, thus proving that the adage "humor is something bad happening to someone else" should be modified to include "or to yourself long enough ago that you've healed".

#28 ::: Xopher Halftongue ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 11:20 AM:

One year when I was a kid, there was a snowfall followed by a light sleet followed by a sudden drastic drop in temperature. The result was all the local trees (long bare by that point) appearing to have been encased in pearl.

It was incredibly beautiful. It broke a lot of trees.

#29 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 12:17 PM:

Xopher (28): Freezing rain will do that, too. With the same unfortunate result.

#30 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 12:40 PM:

I still remember one particular ice storm in Detroit, when I was about 10 years old. It left the trees looking as though they were covered in soap bubbles when the sun hit the clear, curved surfaces of the ice coating.

That was also the time that the entire golf course down the road from us was covered in ice thick enough to skate on, and everybody did so. There were even iceboats!

#31 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 12:46 PM:

The prettiest ice coating I've ever seen wasn't from a storm. When I was in high school, a bad fire burned down the local movie theater and several adjacent stores on a bitterly cold day. It was so cold that the water from the firehoses was freezing before it could put out the fire. The aftermath was gorgeous, in a depressing kind of way: the burned and blackened skeletons of the buildings were encased in clear, thick ice, sparkling in the sun. Then the weather turned warmer, everything melted, and it was just a mess.

#32 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 01:34 PM:

It drizzled lightly all day yesterday, and Boulder temperature has been hovering just above 32°F; I find, after that bad fall I took a few years ago, I'm really afraid of ice storms.

#33 ::: Cheryl ::: (view all by) ::: October 29, 2013, 02:21 PM:

Oh, yes, Ice Storm '98 was like walking through fairyland, in a post-apocalyptic kind of way.

Of course, after the fourth week of sitting in the cold and dark, I just really wanted a shower.

#34 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2013, 03:03 AM:

Windstorm blew through the San Francisco Bay Area the other night, about when it was hitting Amsterdam. A friend tweeted that he got hit in Pleasanton, and the city had warnings of possible 100kph winds. Lots of tree damage where it hit, but we didn't get anything in the south and west sides of the bay.

#35 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2013, 12:09 PM:

Cheryl @33: Wow. That's...a lot of water.

(Suggests that Boulder County should be grateful we got our deluge while the temps were still above freezing.)

Meanwhile, we had a squall come through last night. Snowstorm. With thunder. (That still seems weird and unnatural to me.)

#36 ::: Cassy B. ::: (view all by) ::: October 30, 2013, 12:30 PM:

Jacque @35, we get thundersnow about once a year. Maybe once every other year. You're right, though; it does seem weird when it happens.

#37 ::: Mishalak ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2013, 10:49 AM:

#35 Jacque
Meanwhile, we had a squall come through last night. Snowstorm. With thunder. (That still seems weird and unnatural to me.)

It must be some sort of ancestral knowledge, but to me a thunder snow seems perfectly regular. (Time for the political ad, "My family has lived in Colorado since 1870, and with that kind of connection...") I particularly like the times when there have been purple lighting arcing from cloud to cloud with big fluffy gentle flakes of snow.

#38 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: October 31, 2013, 01:28 PM:

Mishalak: It may also be a microclimates thing. As I recall, you're somewhat south of Boulder? (In a region where south Boulder gets noticeably different weather than north Boulder, and nevermind the difference from Denver.)

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