UK on Alert as Storm Barra Declared a 'Weather Bomb'

Published December 7th, 2021 - 10:46 GMT
Storm Barra
(Shutterstock/ File Photo)
Most of England, Wales and Northern Ireland covered by wind warnings amid fears over travel disruption

Storm Barra blasted into the British Isles in from the Atlantic today with 80mph gales, up to eight inches of snow and a tornado warning as it was officially declared a 'weather bomb' amid fears of more power cuts.

Most of England, Wales and Northern Ireland has been covered by yellow weather warnings for wind amid fears over travel disruption, while a band of snow on the storm's leading edge was set to bring blizzards in the far north. 

Forecasters said Barra was now officially a 'weather bomb', another name for an 'explosive cyclogenesis', which is when there is a rapid fall in pressure of 24 millibars in 24 hours in the central section of an area of low pressure.

Barra fell from a pressure of 1017mb at 6am yesterday to 961mb at 6am today, meaning there was a 56mb drop in 24 hours which therefore developed over double the criteria required for it to become a weather bomb.

Met Office meteorologists added that forecast maps were showing small breaks in the 'line convection' – a narrow band of very intense rain and gales - which can be signs of some rotation of weak funnel clouds or tornadoes.

Gusts of 67mph were recorded this morning on the Isles of Scilly, off the far South West coast of England, as Barra moves its way in from the West. There were also 70mph gusts on Sherkin Island, south-west of Co Cork in Ireland.

The BBC's Ireland correspondent Chris Page urged people to 'stay indoors if you can' in Northern Ireland which is expected to bear the brunt of the storm, although almost the whole of Britain is under a wind warning. 

Forecasters said larger-than-usual waves in coastal areas could present a possible threat to life if wild winds whip street furniture and beach material into the air - with 35ft waves recorded off South West Ireland this morning. 

The Environment Agency has issued 37 flood alerts and five warnings for England, while the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has four alerts and one warning in place and Natural Resources Wales has six alerts in place.

Meanwhile Northern Powergrid said 500 homes in North East England, which are mostly in remote and sparsely populated areas, were still without power today - 11 days after Storm Arwen struck the country on November 26.

Engineers also warned that Barra could 'hamper progress' and 'limit our ability to work safely', but the problems come despite the Prime Minister saying homes affected by the power cuts would have supply restored by today.

Yesterday, when some 1,600 households were still without electricity, Boris Johnson said he had spoken to the Northern Powergrid chief executive and had been 'assured they would be reconnected tomorrow at the latest'.

Meanwhile ice formed overnight ahead of Barra's arrival, with the Met Office issuing a yellow warning as drivers faced potentially hazardous conditions in western Scotland and North West England.

While the West of Ireland will receive the worst of the storm today, yellow wind warnings were in place across England, Wales and Northern Ireland - with travel disruptions likely. There were also fears of power cuts and damage to buildings.

Wind gusts of 60mph to 70mph were expected on the western and southern coasts of England and Wales, accompanied by large waves that carry a 'small chance' of risk to life by throwing beach material onto sea front, coastal roads and properties, the Met Office said. Exposed coasts could see winds of up to 80mph.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has urged people to stay well back from the water's edge and to dial 999 for the coastguard in any coastal emergency.

The Environment Agency issued flood warnings for England's south coast, as well as dozens of flood alerts.

Yellow snow warnings were also in place in northern England and Scotland, with blizzards and snowfall of up to 8in (20cm) causing treacherous conditions on roads at higher altitudes, the Met Office said.

In Ireland, schools were told to keep their doors closed as a rare red warning was given for Cork, Kerry and Clare. Covid-19 test and vaccination centres will also remain closed in some parts of the country.

Met Eireann has warned that disruption to travel and the power supply are likely, along with coastal flooding. Gardai have urged anyone living in areas affected by red or orange warnings to avoid unnecessary travel.

The Irish Coast Guard has urged the public to avoid any activities that could expose them to 'unnecessary danger'. Defence Force troops are on standby, alongside members of Civil Defence.

In Britain, Met Office meteorologist Aidan McGivern said Storm Barra's wind gusts and impacts 'will be a notch down compared to Arwen', which led to widespread power cuts on November 26.

There were concerns that gale-force winds today could make it more difficult for engineers to reconnect homes, although spokesman Stephen Dixon said winds would 'gradually weaken' as they move east and should have petered out by Thursday.

Following a call with the boss of Northern Powergrid, Phil Jones, the Prime Minister tweeted he had 'asked for assurances that the energy supply companies were putting in place measures to limit any potential further disruption to households as a result of Storm Barra'.

The energy minister, Greg Hands, said yesterday that it was 'completely unacceptable' that around 1,600 households were still without power.

Labour has accused the Government of treating people in Scotland and the north of England as 'second-class citizens'.

Residents in the affected areas said they were losing hope and feeling 'fed up and angry' as they endured an 11th night without electricity.

A deadline set last Wednesday to restore power supply to all properties by the end of the week was missed.

Met Office forecaster Simon Partridge warned the impact of the storms on power grid engineers in remote rural areas was 'not going to make working conditions any easier for those out and about'.

Winds tomorrow will start to ease, but it will remain very cold with a continued threat of snow on higher ground.

A further area of low pressure will arrive from the Atlantic by the end of the weekend, but forecasters expect temperatures to be slightly higher than over the first week of December.

Among those still shivering against the December chill in unheated homes yesterday was Stewart Sexton, who said he was left with 'no hope left at all' over the 'exhausting' aftermath of Arwen.

Mr Sexton, 57, who lives with his partner in Alnwick, Northumberland, said Northern Powergrid has promised their power will be restored within 24 hours every day since it cut out on November 26, and the constant disappointment was 'wearing us down'.

'Every day seems to bring a new problem,' he said. 'On day nine there was torrential rain and our village started to flood. That was mainly because of the storm debris.

'I had to clear standing water from the road, which got my clothes wet, and then return to a house without heating.

'From my window I can see a snapped telegraph pole and cables lying on the ground. The weather forecast is dreadful. We have not got any hope at all. It's awful, it's the futility of it.'

Mr Sexton said he has been showering using water heated on a wood-burning stove in his living room.

He said his village has had little support, with no sign of re-enforcements from the Army, fire service or council, and their main form of sustenance has been from a van providing free fish and chips.

Fellow Alnwick resident Anna Elson, 49, who suffers with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition worsened by the cold, said: 'The village was left to cope on its own for too long, there are a few medically vulnerable residents here, including me.

'Friends have offered help and the village has come together. But we are fed up and angry at the lack of response we have had.'

Originally almost one million properties were cut off, and Downing Street said yesterday that energy companies had given assurances they were taking 'every step possible' to reconnect the remainder.

Pointing out that the number still cut off in the North East had fallen by 2,425 since Sunday, the Prime Minister's spokesman recognised that those still waiting for power to be restored 'will expect, rightly, more to be done'.

The Electricity Networks Association said operators were 'working together' to prepare for Barra. 'We're monitoring forecasts regularly, coordinating response plans and preparing to share resources if required,' a spokesman said.

The long delays have prompted energy regulator Ofgem to warn it will take enforcement action against network companies who failed to restore power to customers quickly enough. It has also agreed with firms to lift the £700 cap on compensation which could be offered to those stuck without power for days.

A Northern Powergrid spokesman said today: 'We are in the final push to reconnect the 500 customers that remain without power on Tuesday morning following work today and into the night. The vast majority of remaining repairs are in remote, sparsely populated parts of our region and will reconnect one or two customers at a time.

'Our resource levels remain strong and we have more generators available to deploy, so we are targeting reconnection of the remaining customers by late tomorrow night. 

'The remote locations our teams are working in means that Storm Barra could hamper progress. It is not forecast to be as severe as Storm Arwen, but it might limit our ability to work safely.'

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

You may also like