February 26th, 2009

CAT-i Update: Windstorm Quinten

Posted at 12:30 AM ET

Hazard data illustrated in the CAT-i map was taken from i-aXs®, Guy Carpenter’s web-based risk management platform. i-aXs users can view impacted areas on any map as well as see how their portfolios were affected. Please contact your broker or Instrat® representative for assistance or go to www.i-axs.info for further information.

Summary

Windstorm Quinten brought powerful winds and heavy rain to northern France, southern England and parts of Switzerland on 9 February and 10 February, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes without power and severely disrupting transport. In France, the forecast of hurricane-force gusts of up to 100 kmph (62 mph) in the Parisian region prompted the closure of Paris’s two international airports (Orly and Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle) for the first time in 34 years. In France around 600,000 households are without power in western, northern and central regions. Quinten is the second major storm to hit France in less than three weeks after Windstorm Klaus left 1.7 million homes without power in southwestern parts of the country. Météo France said Quinten was less intense than Klaus but affected a wider swathe of the country and would last longer.

Hurricane-force wind gusts of around 140 kmph (87 mph) were recorded on some parts of France’s west coast as Quinten came in from the Atlantic just before dawn on 10 February. Between midnight and 03:00 local time, gusts of 141 kmph (88 mph) were recorded on the Ile de Yeu with gusts of 126 kmph (78 mph) recorded in the Vendée and 102 kmph (63 mph) in Brest. French emergency services were called out hundreds of times in badly affected western coastal departments to clear fallen trees and debris from roads, and to deal with damage to power lines and roofs, although there were no initial reports of injuries.

Around 600,000 households are still without electricity, with customers in the departments of the Gironde, Vendée and Charente-Maritime, and in the regions of Centre, Picardie, Auvergne and Limousin being worst affected. According to a spokesman from Electricité et Réseau Distribution France (ERDF), teams were working to restore power as soon as possible, although it was not known when electricity would be restored.

The pre-emptive closure of Paris’s main international airports, Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle and Orly from around 20:00 on 9 February to the morning of 10 February led to the cancellation of more than 200 flights. The carrier Air France reported that it had to find accommodation for around 3,000 travellers in hotels around Charles-de-Gaulle, one of Europe’s busiest airports. According to Paris airport officials, flights began to resume at around 10:00, with all scheduled long-haul Air France flights operating, although with major delays to both in-bound and out-bound flights.

Around the coast, the French navy were reported to have put three rescue vessels on standby at the mouth of the Channel to help any shipping traffic in difficulty and sand bags were deployed on sea fronts exposed to the risk of storm surge flooding. Ferry operators Oceane and Penn Ar Bedd said that ferry services had been suspended between Brittany and nearby islands, and Brittany Ferries announced the postponement of the inaugural sailing on Tuesday of its service from Roscoff to Plymouth, U.K.

Météo France has lifted its severe weather warning for southwestern France, but the north of the country, from western Brittany to Alsace in the east, remains on alert with high winds expected until around 19:00 on 10 February. Heavy rain was forecast further south, with the department of the Gironde on the Atlantic coast warned of possible storm surge flooding.

As France still recovers from Windstorm Klaus, French authorities were well-prepared for the latest storm. In addition to airport closures, school bus services were pre-emptively cancelled in many parts of the country and lorry traffic was banned in several areas. People were warned to remain at home across all areas of the country in the storm’s path.

Elsewhere, Switzerland was hit by powerful winds, with gusts reaching up to 150 kmph (90 mph) in the Jura Mountains on the border with France, according to reports. Parts of the United Kingdom were also affected as heavy rain and more snow and sleet fell in some areas, raising the risk of serious flooding. The Environment Agency issued 95 flood warnings across the Thames, Southern, Anglia, Midlands and Southwestern regions. Up to 45 mm of rainfall were recorded in parts of southern England, the equivalent to the monthly average for February. More snow has also been falling in the Midlands, east Wales and Gloucestershire, where at least 3,000 homes have been left without electricity. Emergency services said they responded to hundreds of weather-related calls overnight but no widespread property damage has been reported.

Sources: Agence France Presse, Associated Press, BBC News, Lepoint, Reuters News, Xinhua News Agency

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Guy Carpenter’s Instrat® department provides CAT-i reports for major natural catastrophes worldwide. These reports cover catastrophes including worldwide tropical cyclones, earthquakes, major UK and European floods and any other natural event that is likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email CAT.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

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