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Storm Sabine: Serious weather shuts down air traffic across Europe

09.02.2020

Ciara or Sabine: Call it what you want, but countries across Europe are being hit by a powerful storm. Transport has been plunged into chaos and schools have been closed. People have been injured in Germany and the UK.

Northern Europe is currently being hit by a major storm, which is moving south. In Germany, where the storm is known as Sabine, travel services and public events have been the weather's first casualties.

Germany

Germany issued its second-highest storm warning level for large parts of the country. In parts of the Black Forest, the highest level 4 warning was issued. The weather system was forecast to travel south towards Bavaria throughout the night.

Early on Monday morning, two people were seriously injured by falling trees in the city of Saarbrücken.

Wind speeds of 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour were expected through the night in Germany, likely to fell trees and impair traffic. By 3 p.m. on Sunday, wind speeds had topped 150 kmh in the Harz Mountains in central Germany. In Kiel, winds were at 120 kmh.

By midday, Düsseldorf airport reported it had canceled or diverted 111 flights, with Cologne-Bonn airport also reporting a number of grounded flights. Both airports advised passengers that stoppages could continue on Monday. Around 180 flight departures and arrivals — about 15% of scheduled flights — were canceled at Frankfurt Airport, a spokeswoman for the airport operator Fraport said, adding that 130 flights scheduled for Monday had already been canceled. Short- and long-haul flights from Munich airport have been grounded until midday Monday, the national carrier, Lufthansa, said. 

Photos: Storm Sabine wreaks havoc across northern Europe
Storm chaos in southern Germany

Authorities issued widespread weather warnings in the south German states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, which were expected to experience some of the worst of the bad weather. In Bavaria, around 60,000 homes were without electricity after the storm caused a power cut.

Photos: Storm Sabine wreaks havoc across northern Europe
Storm disrupts Monday's commute

Long-distance and regional train services were suspended overnight across Germany, and commuters faced disruption as they tried to take trains to work on Monday morning with some services still canceled or delayed, with trains traveling at slower speeds due to high winds.

Photos: Storm Sabine wreaks havoc across northern Europe
Meter-high spray in Schleswig-Holstein

In Germany's northernmost state of Schleswig-Holstein there was meter-high spray from the North Sea at the ferry port of Dagebüll. In St. Peter-Ording, also on the North Sea coast, some parents took their children out to play in the wind, along with some brave kitesurfers.

Photos: Storm Sabine wreaks havoc across northern Europe
Storm aids record-breaking flights

Many flights were cancelled but the ferocious gusts also aided flights. Propelled by wind from the storm, a British Airways plane was thought to have made the fastest New York-to-London flight made by a conventional airliner, completing the 3,500 mile journey in just four hours and 56 minutes.

Photos: Storm Sabine wreaks havoc across northern Europe
Injuries reported

Winds have knocked over trees and other heavy objects, causing damage to vehicles and disrupting traffic. Several injuries were reported, including one woman in critical condition in Germany after a tree fell on her vehicle.

Photos: Storm Sabine wreaks havoc across northern Europe
Battering winds

Storm Sabine, or Ciara as it's called outside of Germany, brought down trees and powerlines as it lashed parts of northern Europe. More than 30,000 homes in Britain, and some 10,000 in Ireland, were without electricity.

Photos: Storm Sabine wreaks havoc across northern Europe
Flood warnings

Heavy rain pounded much of the UK, prompting the Met Office to issue 190 emergency flood warnings. Waters rose rapidly in Mytholmroyd (pictured) in England's north, after the River Calder burst its banks.

Photos: Storm Sabine wreaks havoc across northern Europe
Massive gusts

The howling winds also caused traffic chaos, with scores of flights and train services canceled across the continent. The UK Met Office said the highest wind speed recorded was 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour at the northern Welsh village of Aberdaron.

Photos: Storm Sabine wreaks havoc across northern Europe
Sabine on mainland Europe

The storm also battered the city of Wimeureux and other parts of northern France, where parks, cemeteries and outdoor markets were closed. The bad weather affected Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark and Germany, before moving east to Czechia.

Photos: Storm Sabine wreaks havoc across northern Europe
Storm surge

Sabine arrived on Germany's northwest on Sunday morning, hitting the coastal towns of Emden and Kiel, and the North Sea island, Sylt. Ferry services in the region were canceled, while the ports of Dover in England and Calais in France were shut down completely because of the dangerous swell.

Photos: Storm Sabine wreaks havoc across northern Europe
Passengers stranded

Düsseldorf and Frankfurt airports in western Germany canceled scores of flights on Sunday as Sabine began moving south towards the state of Bavaria. Flights were also affected in the cities of Hamburg, Berlin, Hannover, Dortmund, Cologne and Stuttgart. Similar disruptions were reported at London's Heathrow Airport, Brussels Airport and Amsterdam's Schiphol.

Photos: Storm Sabine wreaks havoc across northern Europe
Atop the Brocken

Wind speeds on northern Germany's highest peak, the Brocken, reached 156 km/h on Sunday evening, according to the German weather service. Forecasts warned there could be gusts as strong as 180 km/h there overnight.

Photos: Storm Sabine wreaks havoc across northern Europe
Sports events, school canceled

Authorities warned millions of people in the affected countries to stay indoors. Dozens of events were called off as a result of the weather, including the Premier League football match between Manchester City and West Ham, and a German soccer league game between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Cologne. All schools were closed on Monday in Luxembourg and the western German city of Cologne.

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National rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) said it would cancel long-distance trains nationwide as a result of the storm. "Because of the current developments and increasingly powerful winds we have decided to progressively suspend all long-distance traffic across Germany from 1800 [1700 UTC]," DB said. Trains are cancelled until at least 1000 (0900 UTC) on Monday.

A sold-out Bundesliga match between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Cologne was canceled in the western city of Cologne. The Ski Jumping World Cup in Willingen, in the state of Hesse, had already been canceled on Saturday.

Read more: Germany braces for storm Sabine, transport delays

Germany has issued its second highest warning for the storm

Britain

The storm is the strongest to hit the country since 2013. 

The UK Met Office issued more than 200 flood warnings after heavy rains caused some rivers to burst their banks. More than 150 millimeters (5.9 inches) of rain fell in a 24-hour period in northwest England's Lake District national park.

The rough weather also brought down trees and power lines, leaving around 30,000 homes without electricity. 

The strongest wind speed recorded was 150 kmh at Aberdaron, in northern Wales, the Met Office said.

Dozens of flights were canceled and rail companies operated reduced timetables. British Airways has offered to rebook affected passengers' flights. The national rail company has advised passengers not to travel by train for the time being.

Huge waves forced the English port of Dover to shut down operations, and ferries across the region were also halted. 

Dozens of sports events were called off, including the Premier League fixture between Manchester City and West Ham, the Women's Super League football derbies, and two Super League rugby games.

In Scotland, three people were reportedly injured when a pub roof collapsed.

By midday, Dusseldorf airport had cancelled or diverted 111 flights

Belgium

Belgium was expected to be affected for about 24 hours from 10 a.m. local time (0900 UTC), with wind speeds of about 130 kmh or more. About 60 flights were canceled at Brussels Airport, including flights from Lufthansa and Eurowings.

The Belgium football league postponed championship matches for Sunday.

France

Authorities warned of flooding and storm damage in northwestern France. In the Vosges mountains, wind speeds of up to 140 kmh were expected. Authorities warned against going into forests and parking cars under trees.

The port of Calais was closed due to dangerous swell.

Netherlands

Winds of 100 kmh were recorded just after midday in the Netherlands, and were expected to pick up to 140 kph later.

Locals have been told to leave their infamous caravans at home, while the national football association canceled all games in its professional leagues on Sunday. KLM grounded dozens of European flights to and from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport. 

Ignoring the warnings, a group of extreme cyclists competed in the Dutch Headwind Cycling Championships, riding along an 8.5 kilometer (5.3-mile) course on the coast of Zeeland. The event is billed as a Dutch version of mountain cycling.

Ireland

The national weather agency warned that coastal regions in the north and northwest may experience flooding as a result of rough seas and high tides. An event in Galway for the European Capital of Culture 2020 was already canceled on Saturday evening.

About 10,000 homes were left without power, according to broadcaster RTE.

Denmark

Forecasts warned that hurricane-force winds could hit the country late on Sunday.

Danish paper Jyllands Posten reported a woman and a child were washed into the North Sea from a pier in the country's north, but were soon rescued. Several traffic accidents were also reported. 

Motorists were urged to avoid using large bridges, such as the Great Belt Bridge connecting the eastern and western parts of Denmark.

Norway

Norway's Meteorological Institute issued a yellow warning for the southern and eastern parts of the country until 10 p.m. (2100 UTC). Several ferry services to Sweden and Denmark were reportedly stopped and several roads were closed. Strong winds prevented a Danish passenger boat from docking in Oslo. 

01:34 mins.
DW News | 09.02.2020

Winter storm batters Britain, heads for Germany

nm,aw,ed/shs (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)