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Archive for Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Tempest storms across Europe

Freakish weather batters England, France

October 31, 2000

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— A powerful storm barreled across western Europe on Monday, ravaging ancient oaks, grounding flights, cutting power to more than 100,000 homes and snarling traffic. At least eight people were killed.

The Eurostar train service, linking London with Paris and Brussels, was out of commission, and France's famous high-speed trains limped along at half-speed, as winds gusting up to 93 mph tossed trees on to highways and rail lines.

The storms struck England and France on Sunday night when a band of low pressure swept in from the Atlantic. Britain's National Meteorological Office said the winds were the strongest in southern England in a decade.

On both sides of the English Channel, history took a beating from the bad weather. At Wolverhampton in central England, the storm wrecked an oak tree that was an offshoot of one used by Charles II to hide in after a battle debacle in 1651. In central Paris, a section of roof on the landmark 19th-century Madeleine church was in danger of collapsing, Europe 1 radio reported.

The wild weather spawned a pair of tornadoes, a rarity in Britain. Both hit trailer parks on England's southern coast, one in the town of Bognor Regis late Saturday and a second early Monday in nearby Selsey.

British insurers fear destruction could top that of a storm of similar intensity in January 1990 that did $3 billion worth of damage.

In Paris, authorities closed 426 gardens and squares, worried about debris and branches tossed by the high winds.

Some 80,000 households in northwest France were without electricity Monday afternoon, according to the state-run electric company, EDF.

Eight people four in France, three in Britain and one in Ireland died during the storms Sunday and Monday, mostly as a result of falling trees.

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