Storm Ciara was a deep, Atlantic depression that affected the UK on Sunday 9th February 2020. Although the UK regularly experiences Atlantic depressions, what is unusual about Strom Ciara is that the large, deep area of low pressure covered the whole of the UK. At one point the storm delivered the strongest winds and biggest waves in the world.
The storm coincided with a full moon, meaning coastal areas experienced a spring tide leading to over-topping, adding to the impact of Storm Ciara.
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Hurricane-force winds and flooding caused severe disruption across much of the UK, including damage to hundreds of properties and the cancellation of trains, flights and ferries.
The Cause of Storm Ciara
The Impacts of Storm Ciara (Social, Economic and Environmental)
A man died after a tree fell on his car on the A33 in Hampshire. A second man died in Black Wood, Liverpool, when a branch fell on him.
Homes were flooded in a number of areas including:
- Appleby-in-Westmoreland, Cumbria
- Bury and Ramsbottom
- Blackpool, Whalley, Longton and Rossendale in Lancashire.
- Calder Valley, Kirklees, Bradford, Leeds and Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire
The graph below shows the level of the River Calder at Mytholmroyd, West Yorkshire. At it’s peak it was over five metres. That’s one metre above the previous record.
River Levels at Mytholmroyd following Storm Ciara
In the UK as a whole about 118,000 people were without power as of 16:00 GMT. Energy companies said they had reconnected 421,000 customers since the storm hit and work is continuing to restore electricity to the remaining homes.
12,779 customers were without electricity in the East and West Midlands, the South-West and South Wales.
Over 3000 people were left without power in Scotland, in areas including Perthshire and Lockerbie.
Thousands of properties in Cumbria experienced several days with no water or low pressure, after supply was hit by Storm Ciara. A 100m (330ft) section of the water main between Kendal and Shap was damaged in Sunday’s storm.
A water supply issue in the Penrith area forced more than 20 schools to close. Police said the problem had been declared a major incident.
A severe flood warning for the River Nidd at Pateley Bridge was issued.
Residents had to be evacuated after a huge crane collapsed through the roof of an unoccupied block of flats on a building site. The London Fire Brigade evacuated 30 people from nearby flats in Stanmore, Harrow. No injuries were reported.
Firefighters rescued two people who were trapped in car in flood water in Augher, County Tyrone, as Storm Ciara battered Northern Ireland.
Crews pushed the car out of the water to safety during the rescue on the Lisnawery Road on Sunday morning.
Firefighters also had to protect 15 houses from flooding in Enniskillen and they rescued 12 sheep from floods in Dromore, County Tyrone.
The UK’s transport infrastructure experienced many issues, for example:
- The Humber Bridge was closed to pedestrians and vehicles, for only the second time
- Many rail companies cancelled trains. Network Rail imposed a blanket speed restriction of 50mph across the network on Sunday, and is telling passengers to avoid travelling by rail, if possible. The rail firms which have issued “do not travel” warning for Sunday are Gatwick Express, Grand Central, Great Northern, Hull Trains, LNER, Northern, Southeastern, Southern, Thameslink and TransPennine Express.
- Ferry services were cancelled including cross channel ferries from Dover to Calais and Isle of Man ferries between Douglas and Heysham.
- Roads were flooded in the Calderdale Valley
- Across the country, roads were blocked by falling trees
- High winds created by Storm Ciara over the United Kingdom and the North Atlantic meant that a British Airways aircraft broke the world record for the fastest subsonic flight between London Heathrow and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, with a Boeing 747-400 propelled by a strong tailwind across the Atlantic in 4 hours and 56 minutes. During the flight, the 747 hit a maximum speed of 825 miles per hour, and arrived over two hours ahead of schedule. More from the BBC.
- Storm force winds and rain caused damage to a Victorian sea wall in a Somerset coastal town.
The strom also brought widespread flooding as the result of heavy rainfall. The economic impact of this is yet to be calculated.
High street shops were flooded in the market towns of Todmorden and Hebden Bridge in the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire. Flooding also occured in central York when the River Ouse burts its banks.
The front of Bridge House guest house in the Scottish Borders collapsed after its foundations were washed away in Storm Ciara.
Sporting events were cancelled around the country including Premier League fixtures.
Insurer Aviva published numbers around the effects of Storm Ciara. It said there had been a 285% increase in telephone calls and claims.The worst affected areas were Nottingham, Birmingham, Norwich, Sheffield and Bradford. “The majority of claims have been from people whose properties have been affected by strong winds, such as loose roof tiles, broken windows and fallen trees, but we are also starting to see flood claims,” reported Andrew Morrish, UK claims director for Aviva.
Many rivers reached peak flow leading to increased erosion along river banks. Many rivers tore loose and carried away trees damaging local ecosystems and habitats.
The storm dumped up to 1ft (0.3m) of sand along the seafront at Bournemouth in Dorset.
Responses to Storm Ciara
Warnings were issued by the Met Office.
Met Office warnings for Storm Ciara
Met Office Amber Wind Warning
Met Office yellow rain warning
Flood warnings were issued by the Environmental Agency. In total the EA issued 186 flood alerts, 251 flood warnings and 1 severe flood warning in England.
Flood Warnings issued by the Environmental Agency
The police encouraged people to use what3words to inform emergency services of the location of people in difficulty.
In Northern Ireland, Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey confirmed that emergency funding was being made available to local councils.
The government’s emergency Bellwin scheme for areas in the north of England affected by Storm Ciara was activated.
The scheme – activated for qualifying areas in West Yorkshire, Cumbria and Lancashire – enabled local authorities dealing with the storm to apply to have all of the eligible costs they incur, above a threshold, to be reimbursed by the government.
Impact of recently installed flood defences
Flood defences, costing tens of million pounds, that had been built up in the Calder Valley since flooding in Christmas 2015 were breached.
Sport England offered emergency £5,000 grants to help repair sports facilities damaged by Storm Ciara.
BBC News Storm Ciara
The Guardian – Storm Ciara