Rare, strong thunderstorms bring heavy winds to Europe, killing several


A massive complex of storms traveled nearly 1,000 miles across Europe, reportedly killing scores and wreaking havoc on the French island of Corsica and landmarks in Venice before causing major wind damage in parts of Austria and Slovakia.

At least five people in France and two in Italy have been killed by the nasty storm complex, according to the Associated Press. Some experts believe The storm complex can be considered a derecho, a particularly damaging, widespread, and long-lived windstorm. Two children were reportedly killed by the same long-track storm complex in Austria.

The storm complex was moving exceptionally fast, increasing its wind risk. The fierce storm line struck the Corsican capital of Ajaccio on the southwest coast at 8:15 a.m. local time on Thursday and then reached Cap Corse on the northeastern tip around 9:15 a.m weather. That’s a forward speed of about 70 km/h.

Parts of France and southern England were hit by torrential rain on August 16, flooding underground stations and roads. (Video: The Washington Post)

Preliminary reports of wind gusts in Corsica include: 140 mph (225 km/h) in Marignana, 128 mph (206 km/h) in L’Île-Rousse, 122 mph (197 km/h) in Calvi and 116 mph (188 km /h) in Bocognano, among other.

Dramatic video from Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte Airport in Corsica shows the extreme destruction that 136 mph wind gusts, equivalent to the strength of a Category 4 hurricane, can wreak. According to reports from Airlive, the winds damaged an Airbus A319, an airliner that can seat up to 156 passengers, with one of its wingtips bent over by the storm.

According to the AP, at least five people were killed in and around the French island during the storm: a 13-year-old girl and a 46-year-old man were killed at two campsites; a 72-year-old woman died when a roof collapsed on her vehicle; and two people died at sea – a kayaker and a 62-year-old fisherman, whose bodies washed ashore after the storm.

Several others were injured and at least a dozen people were hospitalized in Corsica, according to the report. The strong winds also left 45,000 people without power.

Further along the system’s path, two people were killed in the Italian province of Tuscany when trees were uprooted from the ground, while several others were injured by falling trees at a campsite. In Venice, high winds threw tables and chairs like toys onto popular St. Mark’s Square, and pieces of brick were ripped straight from St. Mark’s Bell Tower, the city’s tallest structure.

In Piombino, Italy, dramatic video of the storm shows a Ferris wheel spinning rapidly in the storm, with the wheel’s carriages spinning out of control as the howling winds take over the wheel’s operations. Walnut-sized hailstones caused significant damage in Italy’s Liguria region, smashing windows and damaging farmland already scorched by the drought, the AP said.

The storm continued to bring fierce lightning and strong winds even after sweeping through parts of northern Italy. Video from Kranj, Slovenia shows fierce winds tearing off the roof of what appears to be a large apartment complex, damaging cars parked underneath.

In Austria, another amazing video shows high-voltage pylons bent in half. At least 65,000 people in Styria, a state in the heart of Austria, lost power during the storm, which brought wind gusts of at least 139 km/h (86 mph), according to reports from Austrian broadcaster ORF.

Elsewhere in Austria, at least two children have been killed in the Carinthia region after high winds downed trees near a busy lake.

The storm’s peak winds appeared to be comparable to some of the strongest ever measured outside the mountains of Europe. Such strong gusts of wind in widespread form are uncommon in the region in summer. A majority of widespread wind damage events occur in the fall through spring and are typically caused by strong mid-latitude storm systems dancing along the jet stream.

Some speculate that the storm could meet the requirements of a derecho — a widespread and long-lived storm at least 60 miles wide that leaves 400 miles of damage in its wake. Even then, a storm complex must have wind gusts of at least 58 mph for most of its length, with some gusting at least 75 mph, according to the US National Weather Service.

About one large derecho forms annually across Europe, or several on a small scale. Most of these convection storms have a much smaller and less intense footprint than the plume that struck Thursday, according to research by scientists at the European Severe Storms Laboratory (ESSL). The position and direction of movement also seem to be somewhat unusual.

It is reminiscent of a derecho that struck Germany, including Berlin, in July 2002. This storm complex was responsible for eight dead and 50 injured.

Authors of a study on this derecho noted that “strong convection can reach a size and intensity comparable to that in the United States.”

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