1. ITV Report

The tricky task of forecasting UK storms

Weather damage in the Anglia region in January 2007 Photo: ITV News Anglia

Atlantic storms do affect the Anglia region from time to time although their impact is usually greater on in northern and western parts of the British Isles.

The last time winds gusted to 60-70mph in widespread areas of the Eastern Counties was in March 2008. A wind gust of 71 mph was recorded at Calthorpe in Norfolk and 70 mph at Cottesmore in Rutland on 1 March. The winds were damaging in many parts of the region with trees and power lines brought down.

Wind damage to two crane on the dockside at Felixstowe, Suffolk during a storm in 2008 Credit: ITV News Anglia

Two container cranes were toppled at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk after a cargo vessel slipped its moorings crashing containers onto cranes on the wharf.

Trees were brought down onto homes and businesses, downed overhead lines on the West Coast rail line stranded trains and power was cut to 5,000 properties in the region.

Less than two weeks later another storm formed on the other side of the Atlantic – like the one forecast to hit the region on Monday – and brought wind gusts in excess of 60 mph at Weybourne and Marham in Norfolk and in Bedford.

A tree is blown onto a house at Kettlestone in Norfolk in March 2008. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Even stronger winds hit the Anglia region in January 2007. The highest gust recorded in the Anglia region was 81 mph at Holbeach in Lincolnshire near The Wash.

That storm blew a double decker bus off the A10 road and into a ditch at Stretham in Cambridgeshire. Lorries were also toppled on the A12 and A14.

Highest gusts in the Anglia region in January 2007

  • 81 mph in Holbeach, Lincolnshire
  • 78 mph in Marham, Norfolk
  • 78 mph in Wittering, Cambridgeshire
  • 75 mph in Mattishall, Norfolk
  • 73 mph in Wattisham, Suffolk
  • 69 mph at Luton airport, Bedfordshire
A lorry toppled by the wind on the A14 in Cambridgeshire in 2007 Credit: ITV News Anglia

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The worst storm in recent times was the Burns Day Storm of January 1990 when there were wind gusts of 97 mph at Great Gaddesden in Hertfordshire and 86 mph in Chelmsford, Essex. That storm struck

The Great Storm of October 1987 was the storm of the century and as well as the havoc it wreaked it is also best remembered for the ill-fated hurricane comments of television weatherman Michael Fish. Mr Fish did go to say that it would be windy but that the highest winds would be on the continent. In the event the weather system pushed further north and the south east of England bore the brunt of the storm.

A tree brought down by high winds in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire in January 2007. Credit: ITV News Anglia

It was failure to accurately forecast the Great Storm of 1987 and issue timely warnings that led the setting up of the National Severe Weather Warning Service that is now issuing the warning’s for Monday’s storm.

Although weather forecasting has improved considerably since the 1980s, it still has its uncertainties. The sophisticated models run by huge supercomputers still rely on getting thousands of weather observations from around the world as well as from satellite and radar readings. There is a sparse network of weather stations in remote areas of the globe and over the oceans so the data the computers are working with is not perfect.

Forecasters at the Met Office in Exeter with use their own computer models along with the output from other meteorological services in other countries combined with skill and judgment to forecast the most likely outcome.

A National Hurricane Centre forecast for Tropical Storm Raymond in the Pacific - the white area shows the possible track of the storm Credit: NOAA/National Hurricane Centre

In areas prone to severe weather like hurricanes, people are used to forecasts being issued which show a range of outcomes and storm tracks.

These computer models churn out their forecasts every six hours and these can alter the forecasts issued by the human forecasters, which is why in hazardous weather situations it is worth keeping a regular eye on the forecast for the latest information.

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