Windstorm Christian expected to cause large losses across Europe

Storm directly impacted several major European cities: EQECAT

A severe European Windstorm has hit numerous countries across Northern Europe, causing 15 fatalities, widespread damage to property and continued disruption to travel and energy supplies. Extra-Tropical Cyclone Christian – also referred to as Carmen in Denmark, the St Jude’s day storm in the UK, and Simone in Sweden – tracked across the Southern regions of the UK overnight Sunday and into the early hours of Monday morning.

Power lines were damaged, leaving 660,000 households in the UK and 75,000 homes in France without energy. According to news reports, fatalities were largely due to the indirect damage inflicted by fallen trees and people being swept away by fast moving water in coastal areas. In the UK, damage to buildings, trees and cars was concentrated along the neighbouring counties of the South coast, as wind speeds reached greater than 150 km/hr on the Isle of Wight and 119-121 km/hr in inland areas such as Yeovilton, Somerset. A similar pattern of damage and disruption was reported across the Northern coastal nations of Europe, including France, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, and Latvia.

Read: Hurricane-force gusts batter Britain, France and the Netherlands

The storm created significant travel disruption across Europe as fallen trees brought both regional and national rail services to a halt. In the UK, train services were completely suspended on most lines serving London terminals; in Amsterdam, train and tram services were halted due to debris and damage; and across Northern Germany (particularly Hamburg), disruption continued to effect public transport throughout Tuesday 29 October.

In Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, and Latvia, tens of thousands were continuing to go without power.  Similar patterns of disruption were noted across Europe, such as the cancellation of 130 flights at Heathrow airport, London’s largest air terminal and the total closure of Copenhagen airport. Due to heavy rainfall impacting the English Channel, the North Sea, and the Baltic, the Environment Agency issued 152 flood alerts across England and Wales.

According to the UK Met Office, it is more common to have such an intense windstorm in the winter months (particularly December/January). In that respect, Christian is a little early in the season for European windstorms. With most trees still carrying their leaves at this time of year, there is greater possibility for damage caused by fallen trees.

Read: Sandy’s hurricane-force winds caused little damage to buildings

While it is too early to predict the exact economic and insured loss from this event, NRC news reports a minimum of 95 million Euros of damage to the Netherlands based purely on the physical damage to buildings.

EQECAT states that it seems likely that Windstorm Christian will cause large losses in multiple regions across Europe. The highest wind speeds of this storm have currently been noted in coastal territories (119-121 km/hr in the UK, 194 km/hr in Denmark). However, the storm’s track directly impacted several major European cities, including London, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Hamburg, and some of the most populous areas of Europe. This would indicate a very high-level of insured exposure.

Christian has been widely compared by the UK media to Windstorm Kyrill (2007), primarily because this was the last major insured loss to occur in the UK. Kyrill left an insured damage totaling €3.5bn (Swiss re) across Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, and United Kingdom. The largest proportion of damage and insured loss from that event occurred in Germany (65%) and the UK (10%). Many of the same countries are likely to be impacted; however, the track and related intensity of Christian is very different to Kyrill, with Christian approaching mainland Europe from a lower latitude and following a more coastal trajectory through the English Channel.

Given the track and relative intensity of Windstorm Christian over the Southern UK, Northern France, Benelux, Northern Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and the Baltic states, it seems these countries will likely bear the highest related insured loss from this event.

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