A massive fall storm over Europe's North Sea generated winds near hurricane force last night that pushed a dangerous storm surge near 1.5 meters (4.65 feet) in height to the southeastern English coast this morning. The storm surge was much lower than originally feared, due in part to the fact it did not hit at high tide. The surge did breach sea defenses and caused some minor coastal flooding in England. It was feared that the storm might rival the great North Sea Flood of 1953
that breached the dikes in the Netherlands. Over 2,000 people died in northern Europe in that storm, mostly in the Netherlands. While today's storm did not approach the 1953 storm in severity, it did bring the highest storm surge seen in the past 20 years to the North Sea. The massive flood gates that protect the Dutch port of Rotterdam were closed
for the first time since they were constructed in the 1990s. From early media accounts,
the gates did their job admirably, protecting the Netherlands from inundation. Water levels reached 3.16 meters above mean sea level in the southern Netherlands, and 3.40 meters above sea level in the northern Netherlands, with no flooding reported. The floods of 1953 saw Dutch waters rise to 3.85 meters (12.6 ft) above sea level. Today's storm was not the remains of Hurricane Noel, which is currently over northern Canada.Figure 1.
Visible satellite image of Europe from 1322 GMT November 8, 2007. A powerful 975 mb low pressure system centered north of England ("L" on the image) was pushing a strong cold front southwards towards Western Europe. Image credit: University of Bern, Switzerland.Figure 2.
Forecast waves heights at 6am Greenwich time, Friday November 9, 2007, as predicted by NOAA's Wavewatch III model.Tropical update
An area of disturbed weather over the extreme southern Caribbean, near Panama, is under about 20 knots of wind shear. The computer forecast models are predicting that some development of this region may occur by Sunday, when wind shear is expected to fall below 20 knots. However, the models are less keen on this prospect than yesterday. Any system that might form is expected to move westward and affect Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
I'll have an update Monday morning, unless there's some new development this weekend.