Storm Ciara

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)

Social impacts

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 several 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

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.

Twelve thousand seven hundred seventy-nine customers were without electricity in the East and West Midlands, the South-West and South Wales.

Over 3000 people in areas including Perthshire and Lockerbie were left without power in Scotland.

Thousands of properties in Cumbria experienced several days with no water or low pressure after Storm Ciara hit the supply. The storm damaged a 100m (330ft) section of the water main between Kendal and Shap.

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 trapped in a 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.

Economic impacts

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 that issued “do not travel” warnings for the Sunday were 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 the Isle of Man 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 storm also brought widespread flooding as a 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 occurred in central York when the River Ouse burst 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.

Environmental impacts

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 warnings for Storm Ciara

Met Office Amber Wind Warning

Met Office Amber Wind Warning

Met Office Yellow Rain Warning

Met Office yellow rain warning

The Environmental Agency issued flood warnings. The EA issued 186 flood alerts, 251 flood warnings and one severe flood warning in England.

Flood Warnings by the Environmental Agency

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, reimbursed by the government.

Impact of recently installed flood defences

Flood defences, costing tens of millions of 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.

Useful links 

BBC News Storm Ciara

The Guardian – Storm Ciara

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