Cyclone Xynthia

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"Xinthia" and "Xynthia" redirect here. For other uses, see Cynthia.
Xynthia animated small.gif
24-hour animation from 17:00 27 February
Formed 26 February 2010
Dissipated 7 Μarch 2010
Lowest pressure 967 mb (28.56 inHg)
Highest winds 228 km/h (142 mph; 123 kn)
Damage €1.3–3 billion[1]
Fatalities 63;[2][3][4] 12 missing[4]
Areas affected Belgium, Denmark, France, England, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and southeast England

Xynthia was a violent European windstorm which crossed Western Europe between 27 February and 1 March 2010. It reached a minimum pressure of 967 mb on 27 February.[5] In France—where it was described by the civil defence as the most violent since Lothar and Martin in December 1999—at least 51 people were killed, with 12 more said to be missing. A further six people were killed in Germany, three in Spain, one in Portugal, one in Belgium and another one in England.[2] Most of the deaths in France occurred when a powerful storm surge topped by battering waves up to 7.5 m (25 ft) high, hitting at high tide, smashed through the sea wall off the coastal town of L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer.[6] A mobile home park built close to the sea wall was particularly hard-hit.[6] The sea wall was about two hundred years old, built in the time of Napoleon; critics said that situating a mobile home park so close to the sea wall showed poor coastal development practices.[6] The storm cut power to over a million homes in France and a million customers in Portugal lost power.


One million homes were left without power in western France. In the Hautes-Pyrénées, falling trees damaged vehicles, the roofs of houses and barns were blown away, and rocks were falling onto the road.[7] In the département of Vendée, cities like La Faute-sur-Mer, L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer, La Tranche-sur-Mer were flooded with water levels reaching up to 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in).[7] Flooding affected parts of the Charente-Maritime département (Suburbs of La Rochelle,[8] cities of Fouras, Marennes, Châtelaillon as well as and Oléron Island[8]) where high speed wind were registered (160 km/h).[9]

Protest against eviction after Xynthia, in Aytré, France

Flooded railway tracks led to railway delays in France and the rail services in northern Spain were also severely affected. 70 flights from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport were cancelled by Air France.[4]

The storm also caused damage in Portugal and Spain. The strongest wind gust recorded in Portugal was 166 km/h (103 mph)[10] while in Spain a gust of 228 km/h (142 mph) was recorded.[11] In France a 241 km/h (150 mph) wind gust was recorded at the Pic du Midi.

The storm may have been exacerbated by the spread of volcanic ash from the Soufrière Hills volcano.[12]

On March 11, 2010, catastrophe risk modeling firm EQECAT estimated wind losses for affected countries excluding Portugal and Spain as follows: Mean damage: €1.3 billion (approximately $1.8 billion USD); Mean insured gross loss: €994 million (approximately $1.4 billion USD).[13] One year after the event, the insurance industry loss aggregator PERILS AG published its final loss estimate for Xynthia of EUR 1.32bn, excluding the French fr:catastrophe naturelle indemnified losses.[14]


Météo-France issued its second highest warning (orange) for 27 February and early 28 February for Andorra, Ain, Ariège, Cantal, Finistère, Haute-Garonne, Gironde, Isère, Loire, Haute-Loire and Hautes-Pyrénées. It issued its highest warning level (red) for the Charente-Maritime, Vendée, Deux-Sèvres and Vienne.[7]

Helicopters were sent to rescue people on their roofs following flooding in Charente-Maritime and Vendée, France.[7] An emergency meeting was held on 28 February by French Premier François Fillon following the effects in France.[7]

The Portuguese Institute of Meteorology issued red warnings for the northern parts of the country for winds up to 150 km/hr, the rest of the country being with orange warnings for wind gusts up to 120 km/hr.


The French Government declared the 2010 floods a “natural catastrophe”.[15] An historical study of coastal surges in France conducted after the storm indicated that there had been no previous coastal surge in France with such a high death toll.[15]

In response to the coastal flooding brought by Xynthia, the French Government announced on 8 April 2010 that it had decided to destroy 1,510 houses in the affected areas of which 823 were in the Vendée and 595 were in Charente-Maritime.[15] The government promised to fully compensate all home-owners, based on the value of the real estate prior to the storm, with the ministry of finance stating that they would pay €250,000 per house.[15] In Vendée of the 823 homes designated by the French state to be destroyed, nearly 700 homeowners accepted the compensation terms by the state with demolition taking place in March 2011.[15] In 2011 there remained 79 people who decided fight the destruction of their homes via the legal system.[15]

The French Government produced a document called Rapid inundation plan: coastal floods, flash floods and dike failures -“Plan submersions rapides: submersions marines, crues soudaines et ruptures de digues” in February 2011.[15] This plan details the policy response brought about not only as a result of Xynthia in February 2010, but also severe June 2010 flash flooding in the Var Department in southern France that led to the deaths of 25 people.[15]

Observed wind gusts[edit]

Wind gusts recorded during Xynthia storm in France and Switzerland :[16]

Country Location Speed Comments
France Pic du Midi de Bigorre 238 kilometres per hour (148 mph) at 2,877 m high
France Puy de Dôme 209 kilometres per hour (130 mph) at 1,415 m high
France Le Markstein 172 kilometres per hour (107 mph) at 1,184 m high
France Scillé 161 kilometres per hour (100 mph) plain maximum value for the storm
France Île de Ré 160 kilometres per hour (99 mph)
France Paris (Tour Eiffel) 155 kilometres per hour (96 mph)
France Luchon 147 kilometres per hour (91 mph)
France Celles-sur-Ource 144 kilometres per hour (89 mph)
France Saint Agnant, Pointe de Chassiron (Ile d'Oléron) 140 kilometres per hour (87 mph)
France Sainte-Gemme-la-Plaine, Brindas, Chastreix 138 kilometres per hour (86 mph)
France Royan 137 kilometres per hour (85 mph)
France Metz 136 kilometres per hour (85 mph)
France Châteauroux, Blois, La Rochelle 132 kilometres per hour (82 mph) 1999 records beaten for Châteauroux and Blois
France La Roche-sur-Yon, Fontenay-le-Comte 131 kilometres per hour (81 mph)
France Cap-Ferret, Cap-Ferret 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph)
France Nangis 128 kilometres per hour (80 mph)
France Niort 127 kilometres per hour (79 mph)
France Roissy-en-France 126 kilometres per hour (78 mph)
France Bourges 125 kilometres per hour (78 mph)
France Poitiers 123 kilometres per hour (76 mph)
France Paris (Montsouris) 122 kilometres per hour (76 mph)
France Lyon 105 kilometres per hour (65 mph)
Switzerland Les Diablerets 148.3 kilometres per hour (92.1 mph) at 2,966 m high
Switzerland Altdorf 147.2 kilometres per hour (91.5 mph) at 449 metres (1,473 ft) high
Switzerland Evionnaz 124.9 kilometres per hour (77.6 mph) at 480 metres (1,570 ft) high
Switzerland La Dole 121.1 kilometres per hour (75.2 mph) at 1,677 m high
Switzerland Piz Corvatsch 119.9 kilometres per hour (74.5 mph) at 3,451 m high
Switzerland Quarten, Moléson 115.6 kilometres per hour (71.8 mph) respectively at 420 and 2,002 m high
Switzerland Oron-la-Ville 112 kilometres per hour (70 mph) at 830 metres (2,720 ft) high
Switzerland Le Bouveret 108.7 kilometres per hour (67.5 mph) at 375 metres (1,230 ft) high
Switzerland Aigle 105.1 kilometres per hour (65.3 mph) at 381 metres (1,250 ft) high
Switzerland Glaris 101.9 kilometres per hour (63.3 mph) at 1,478 m high


  1. ^ International News, (March 3, 2010). "AIR Estimates Windstorm Xynthia Insured Losses at $2 to $4.1 Billion". AIR Worldwide (Wells Publishing, Inc). Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  2. ^ a b, Xinhuanet (March 3, 2010). "Violent winter storm kills 62 in western Europe". Xinhua News Agency. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  3. ^ Europe, CNN (February 28, 2010). "Storm batters Europe, at least 55 dead". Paris, France: Cable News Network. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c "At least 50 dead in western Europe storms". BBC News. 28 February 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  5. ^ CAT Updates, RMS. "Storm Xynthia". Risk Management Solutions, Inc. Retrieved 23 June 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c Staff (1 March 2010) "Weak sea walls blamed for France storm disaster " BBC News
  7. ^ a b c d e "Au moins 40 morts après le passage de la tempête Xynthia" (in French). 28 February 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  8. ^ a b "Rescapés des eaux" (in French). 28 February 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  9. ^ "La tempête Xynthia des 27-28 février 2010" (in French). 28 February 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  10. ^ "Intensidade de vento no Continente" (in Portuguese). 1 March 2010. Retrieved 1 March 2010. 
  11. ^ "Estación C072-Orduña Información del dato validado:" (in Spanish). 28 February 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  12. ^ Yim, Wyss; Huang, Judy; Chan, Johnny C.L. (June 2010). "Volcanoes, dust, and storms". The Geological Society. Retrieved 19 August 2014. 
  13. ^ "EQECAT Estimates Losses for Wind Storm Xynthia". 11 March 2010. 
  14. ^ "Inside Newsletter" (PDF). PERILS AG. April 2011. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Lumbroso, D. M.; Vinet, F. (2011). "A comparison of the causes, effects and aftermaths of the coastal flooding of England in 1953 and France in 2010" (PDF). Natural Hazards and Earth System Science 11 (8): 2321–2333. doi:10.5194/nhess-11-2321-2011. Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  16. ^ Météo France

External links[edit]