At least 6 people were killed during the onslaught of Storm Babet in Scotland on October 19 and 20, 2023, marking a somber note in the cascade of adversities brought about by the storm that saw hundreds of homes evacuated and over 20 000 households plunged into darkness. Severe flooding was also reported in parts of Ireland, where an investigation is now in progress as to why red warnings were not issued for areas that witnessed devastating effects.
On October 18, the UK Met Office issued its first Red warning for rain since February 2020’s Storm Dennis. Effective from 18:00 on October 19 to midday on October 20, the warning focused on eastern Scotland, including the areas of Brechin, Forfar, and Kirriemuir.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) reported that Angus experienced the UK’s highest rainfall on Thursday. Waterside Perth in East Grampian led with 164 mm (6.5 inches), followed by Invermark at 153 mm (6 inches), Charr at 133 mm (5.2 inches), Murton at 101 mm (4 inches), Glenmuick at 97 mm (3.8 inches), and Forter at 95 mm (3.7 inches).
In response to the storm’s severity, emergency services initiated a door-to-door evacuation of approximately 400 homes in Brechin, Angus. Sepa also expanded severe flood warnings to include the River Esk in Aberdeenshire and identified additional villages, such as Logie Mill and Craigo in Angus, and Marykirk in Aberdeenshire, as high-risk areas for flooding. River levels were projected to surge an unprecedented 5 m (16.4 feet) above average.
Aberdeenshire Council increased its emergency preparedness, advising residents to prepare for immediate evacuations and expanding the number of rest centers from two to five.
The Police confirmed the tragic loss of a 57-year-old woman, swept away at Water of Lee, Glen Esk, shortly before 14:00 LT on October 19. Her body was recovered around 16:00 LT, and a formal report will be forwarded to the Procurator Fiscal. On Friday, October 20, officials confirmed two more deaths — a 56-year-old man who died in the same area and a man in his 60s who died after getting caught in fast-flowing flood water in the town of Cleobury Mortimer in Shropshire. Two women died after four cars and an HGV crashed on the M4 on Friday morning. Another person, a 19-year-old man died after a car hit a wall in a West Yorkshire village on Friday night.
More than 100 people had to be rescued in Derbyshire on Friday and the Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service declared a major incident due to the impact of the storm.
Wave heights reached 6 m (20 feet) in Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, a spectacle last seen in 2014, according to paddleboarding instructor David Jacobs.
ScotRail cancelled a large number of rail services, while schools in Angus were closed.
Babet also wreaked havoc across Ireland, with some counties experiencing devastating flooding and millions in damage.
An investigation is in progress as to why Met Eireann decided to maintain a Status Orange warning despite the devastating effects reported by the Mayor of County Cork who witnessed the intense flooding destroy cars and homes across his county.
A series of changes are expected in Met Eireann, among them, lowering the thresholds for warnings and explaining more about what the weather will do instead of emphasizing solely what the weather will be.
Mayor of Cork Frank O’Flynn told Newstalk Breakfast that the warning should have been red as this would have prepared schools and businesses for the impact of the storm, and some damage could have been prevented.
Met Éireann meteorologist Eoin Sherlock said that Met Éireann’s data had supported the decision to issue an Orange warning, despite one or two weather stations creeping into Red territory.
“The model guidance was suggesting that it would be Orange. So, when we look at the figures that fell on the ground in that particular period of time, I think we had one or two stations where it crept into Red territory.”
Additionally, Danish meteorologists issued their highest warning for very dangerous weather on Friday and said levels of some inland waters were expected to rise up to 240 cm (8 feet) above normal — in some places exceeding the 100-year event.
In Sweden, meteorologists warned of extensive flooding affecting roads and railways along the southern coasts. Water levels are expected to drop on Saturday morning. Norway’s second-largest city preemptively closed a bridge, and regional ferries and air traffic faced delays and cancellations. In southern Sweden, multiple train and bus services were suspended, leading local transit operator Skanetrafiken to advise against using public transport.
In Germany, flooding occurred in the cities of Flensburg, Kiel, and Wismar on the Baltic coast, disrupting streets and railway lines. Services on Roedby-Puttgarden and Gedser-Rostock ferry routes between Denmark and Germany were suspended. On the North Sea coast, high winds caused very low water levels, leading to the cancellation of ferries to some islands.
1 Woman dies in Storm Babet with hundreds of homes evacuated – PA Media – October 20, 2023
2 Red warning for Storm Babet – UK Met Office – October 19, 2023
3 Met Eireann red weather warning mistake as ‘frightful’ Storm Babet update issued – GalwayBeo – October 20, 2023
4 At least 2 people dead in Scotland as severe winds and floods buffet Northern Europe – AP – October 20, 2023
Featured image credit: EUMETSAT/Meteosat-10, Zoom Earth, The Watchers. Acquired at 13:15 UTC on October 19, 2023
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