Tropical Storm Katia Slams into Ireland, Britain

By SHAWN POGATCHNIK | September 13, 2011

Tropical Storm Katia shut down roads, bridges and sporting events Monday in Ireland and Britain, where residents braced for the strongest wind gusts in 15 years.

Photo credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

Forecasters in both countries said Monday’s gusts would top 80 mph (125 kph) as the storm, previously a hurricane as it roared across the Atlantic, made driving, shipfaring and even walking dangerous in broad swathes of Ireland, Scotland and northern England.

Most ferry services between Ireland and Britain were canceled, and fishing boats along the Atlantic coasts of Ireland and Scotland were warned to head into port.

Britain’s government forecasting service, the Met Office, told the public to be ready for the strongest winds since October 1996, when the tail end of Hurricane Lili killed five Britons and caused an estimated 150 million pounds ($250 million) of damage there.

The Met Office said the strongest reported gust so far was 82 mph (128 kph) at a mountain station in North Wales. Gusts in the Northern Ireland border town of Castlederg reached 74 mph (118 kph).

Heavy rainfall was expected to hit northern Ireland and Scotland, where Transport Minister Keith Brown reassured travelers that emergency crews were ready to handle accidents, road blockages and power outages.

“Robust contingency arrangements are in place so people should not panic,” Brown said.

The Tour of Britain cycling race canceled Monday’s planned second stage across northern England after deeming the course’s most exposed and elevated points too dangerous.

Ireland, which is regularly buffeted by strong Atlantic winds, also warned of exceptionally dangerous driving conditions and the risk of widespread coastal flooding. Towns along Ireland’s Atlantic coast last experienced heavy flooding in November 2010.

A bridge spanning a bay in County Donegal, northwest Ireland, was closed Monday as a precaution, while fallen trees obstructed roads in several other parts of the island, including Limerick in the southwest.

Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board said its engineers were trying to restore power to about 4,000 homes after lines were toppled in broad swathe running along the Irish Republic’s border with the British territory of Northern Ireland.

Authorities in Norway and Sweden said they expected gale-force winds to arrive there Tuesday evening.

Ireland and parts of Britain periodically catch the tail-end of Atlantic hurricanes as they travel northeast with the Gulf Stream and weaken into tropical storms.

The Met Office said Britain and Ireland felt the winds of one former hurricane in 2009, three in 2006, two in 2000, one in 1998 and one in 1996, when Lili’s winds topped 90 mph (145 kph) and brought widespread disruption to Britain and Ireland.

Katia is the second major hurricane of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, forming two weeks ago near the west African islands of Cape Verde. Katia traveled in a C-shape route toward the Caribbean and the eastern United States but didn’t reach landfall there, and then headed northeast to Europe.

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