Cyclone Xaver

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Cyclone Xaver
Xaver 5 December 2013.jpg
Xaver making landfall over Norway and Denmark on 5 December 2013.
TypeEuropean windstorm, extratropical cyclone, winter storm
Formed4 December 2013
Dissipated10 December 2013
Lowest pressure962 mb (28.41 inHg)
Highest winds
Highest gust142 mph (229 km/h), Aonach Mòr, Scotland, U.K. [1]
Casualties15 UK coastal flooding severity,
High 5/6.[2]

Cyclone Xaver also known as the North Sea flood or tidal surge of 2013, was a winter storm that affected northern Europe. Force 12 winds and heavy snowfall were predicted along the storm's path, and there were warnings of a significant risk of storm surge leading to coastal flooding along the coasts of the North and Irish Seas.


Meteorological development of Xaver

The Free University of Berlin gave the storm the name Xaver (a German form of the name Xavier), which had been previously given to the Berit storm of 2011. The Danish Meteorological Institute following a decision that the institute would name storms affecting Denmark following the St. Jude storm (which had retroactively been given the name Allan) named the storm Bodil.[3][4] In Poland, the storm is named Ksawery, which is the Polish equivalent of Xaver.[5] The Swedish Meteorological Institute gave the storm the name Sven, after the name day of 5 December.[3] In the Netherlands the storm was known as the "Sinterklaasstorm", as 5 December is traditionally celebrated as St. Nicholas Eve in the country.[6] Twitter users in the UK were using the hashtags #scotstorm, #Xaver and #UKstorm. The European Windstorm Centre, a UK-based forecaster, gave the storm the name Cameron.[7]

Meteorological history[edit]

Xaver formed to the south of Greenland on 4 December, and explosively deepened as it moved east to pass the north of Scotland on 5 December.[8] Over the next few days Xaver moved over Southern Norway and Sweden intensifying further, reaching its lowest pressure over the Baltic Sea.[8]


Surface pressure chart 12:00 UTC 5 December 2013
Bremerhaven flooded by the waters of Weser River

The low pressure system formed on 4 December off the west coast of Iceland and was expected to deepen explosively overnight. The UK Met Office issued an amber warning over Scotland and northern parts of England, that wind gusts may reach 90 miles per hour (145 km/h).[9] On 4 December the Environment Agency released a warning to communities along the East Coast of England to prepare for the most serious tidal surge in 30 years, with a significant threat of coastal flooding between 5–7 December.[10]

In the Netherlands, the provinces of Friesland, Groningen and North Holland were placed on Red Alert. Winds of Force 9 – 11 were forecast. The IJsselmeer and Waddenzee areas were also covered by the Code Red alert.[11]

Force 12 gusts were expected in Denmark.[12] In Sweden, the local meteorological institute gave a level 2 warning for central parts of the country due to heavy snowfall and formation of snow drifts.[13]

An extreme weather warning was given to coastal areas of northwestern Germany due to 85 miles per hour (137 km/h) wind gusts.[14] Meteorologists in Germany likened the storm's development to that seen during the North Sea flood of 1962 in which 340 people lost their lives in Hamburg, saying that improvements in sea defences since that time would withstand this storm surge.[15]


The oil platform Buchan Alpha, northeast of Aberdeen was evacuated due to the upcoming storm.[16] East Coast trains announced Thursday 4 December that they expected to run a revised timetable the next day due to the storm.[17] First ScotRail planned to not run trains before 7:00 am on 5 December and expected around 20 routes to be closed, with Network Rail advising passengers to expect delays in Scotland and northern and eastern England.[18] In Leeds roads surrounding the Bridgewater Place tower were closed following a coroners ruling that the surrounding roads should be closed when wind gusts reach 45 miles per hour (72 km/h), following the death of a man after a truck was blown over by freak winds in 2011.[19] People living in Great Yarmouth were told to prepare to evacuate in case the River Yare flooded as a result of the storm.[20] In London, the Thames Barrier was closed to protect the capital from surges along the River Thames,[21] closing for the 126th time in its 31-years of service.[22]


Storm Xaver brought wind gusts up to 142 mph to upland Scotland, though the lowlands in the U.K. and mainland Europe also saw some strong winds. A large area along the European coast from the Netherlands to Denmark saw gusts up to 81 mph with one location on the Danish-German border peaking at 98 mph.[23] Poland saw average maximum windspeeds reach 38 metres per second (85 mph).[24]

Winds brought down a life size Tyrannosaurus rex model at Klimahaus Bremerhaven.[23][25]



In Scotland, at 8 a.m. on 5 December 2013 Glasgow Central station was evacuated after the glass roof was broken by flying debris. ScotRail later cancelled all services in Scotland due to debris including "trampolines, hay bales and trees" falling on the train lines.[1] Rail Net Denmark announced that all rail transport would come to a halt for the afternoon of 5 December.[26] This is the first time all trains in the country have been cancelled. All rail services were cancelled in the Swedish region of Skåne.[27] Rail services across Northern Germany were affected with cancellations across Schleswig-Holstein.[27] The East Suffolk Line (South East England/East Anglia) was closed due to flooding at six locations between Lowestoft and Haddiscoe. Services between Lowestoft and Beccles had not been restored as of 12 December 2013.[28]


Friarton Bridge, Perth, Scotland was closed due to an overturned lorry as a result of the storm.[1] The Redheugh Bridge between Newcastle and Gateshead was also closed due to an overturned lorry, leaving the route closed and traffic diverted,[29] Forth Bridge was also closed due to luton van being driven onto the bridge and then abandons the van, [30][31] Tay and Skye bridges were fully closed. Elsewhere, the Ouse Bridge which carries the M62 motorway over the River Ouse was closed in both directions following a lorry overturning in the high winds.[32] In Stavanger, Norway, on the evening of 5 December 2013 road traffic and pedestrians were not allowed to the city centre due to the risk of house elements being blown down.


The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company cancelled ferries to and from Douglas due to winds forecast to reach Force 9.[33] in Stavanger, Norway several local ferry services were cancelled.


Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen airports were affected by the storm. With an Easyjet flight to Edinburgh struck by lightning and unable to land diverted to Newcastle.[27][34] Another flight from London attempted to land at both Glasgow and Edinburgh before diverting to Manchester.[35] Further south in England video of planes attempting to land at Birmingham Airport in cross winds was posted on the internet, with several flights being forced to re-route to other airports, after failing to land.[36]

In Norway, Stavanger Airport was closed to inbound and outbound flights by the storm winds.[37] Stavanger's major helicopter hub was closed and all the crafts grounded, pausing in service for North Sea oil platforms.

In Sweden Gothenburg's Göteborg Landvetter Airport and Malmö Airport saw planes grounded.[27] Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Hamburg Airport and Berlin Tegel all reported some disruption.[27] Flights to and from Denmark were cancelled, with Billund Airport, Aalborg Airport and Copenhagen Airport all closed.

Energy disruption[edit]

Repairing electricity cables in the wake of Xaver, Baltasound, Unst, Shetland.

20,000 houses lost power in Scotland.[38] In Northern Ireland, 6,500 houses lost power.[39] In the north of England 20,000 homes were without power across Cumbria and Teesside.[40] Northern Powergrid estimated a total of 135,000 properties across the North East, Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire were subject to power disruptions during the storm.[41] Sweden saw a peak of 50,000 homes without power.[42] In Poland, blackout hit 400,000 households.[43]

Storm surge[edit]

Cyclone Xaver unleashing high waves near Warnemünde, Germany

Xaver brought a significant storm surge to Northern Europe with the Environment Agency in England reporting 1,400 homes flooded in England and Wales.[44][45]

Irish Sea[edit]

In the Irish sea flooding was most severe along the north coast of Wales and west coast of England, as winds drove the sea towards the southwest corner of the sea, with onshore winds driving large waves towards the coast. On Thursday, hundreds of people were evacuated from Rhyl, Denbighshire when high tides caused flooding in several streets.[46] North Wales saw a total of 300 homes flooded,[44] mostly in Rhyl with homes also flooded in Kinmel Bay and Llanddulas in Conwy.[47]

Flooding in New Brighton, Merseyside, left cars and businesses flooded at Marine Point and Kings Parade, with police warning the public to keep away from the promenade and Vale Park.[48] In Whitehaven, Cumbria the 400-year-old stone built Old Quay dating from 1634 was damaged.[49] In Blackpool the town's North Pier was severely damaged by the high waves, which included structural damage to the supporting piles.[50] Water levels in both New Brighton and Blackpool were the highest since 1987.[51]

Atlantic coasts[edit]

On the Scottish west coast the main street and esplanade of Oban were flooded.[52] In Northern Ireland the town of Portstewart on the north coast saw waves crashing over the promenade and a children's playground flooded.

North Sea[edit]

On entering the North Sea, the storm surge propagated with the tide along the east coast of Scotland and England from north to south, then continued anticlockwise around the southern North Sea coast to the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.[53][54]

Surges of comparable magnitude to this event and 1953 are not infrequent in the North Sea, 15 are listed to have occurred between 1883 and 1979.[55] The Environment Agency described the storm surge as the most serious in 60 years,[56] with water heights exceeding those of the 1953 flood and 1978 North Sea storm surge at localised points in North Shields and the Humber Estuary.[55][57]


The surge caused the River Tyne in Newcastle to breach its banks and the Tees to overtop its banks into the village of Port Clarance on the north bank causing a major power outage on the south bank of the river, Middlesbrough. It caused a major breach in a sea wall on Greatham Creek alongside Billingham docks thereafter repaired using RAF Chinook helicopters.[58][59]

Floods in Whitby to the south of the North East region saw an electrical substation short out or 'explode'.[60] and 200 homes left underwater.[44] Further along the Yorkshire coast Scarborough and Bridlington also saw flooding.

Defences overtopped at Victoria Dock, Hull

Around the Humber Estuary, Spurn Point nature reserve was closed in anticipation of the surge arrival. In Cleethorpes high water brought limited flooding along the promenade, though to the south of the resort holiday areas were affected. In adjoining Grimsby water overwhelmed the dock gates,[61] the water was able to be contained within the docks which had been run down in anticipation, and did not flood into the town.[62] As the water was funnelled up the Humber Estuary the surge level increased. Humberside Police declared a state of emergency as the River Humber reached a record height of 5.8 m in the city of Hull.[63] To the east of the city the village of Paull flooded. Within Hull city the Hull Tidal Barrier was lowered, protecting large areas of the city, however some flooding occurred in the city centre, Victoria Docks, and Hessle foreshore to homes and business properties.[citation needed] A major flooding event occurred in west central Hull due to the surge overtopping the Albert Dock;[64][65] the A63 road through the city was closed until midday 6 December due to water covering the carriageway. Humberside Police released aerial footage from further up the Humber showing the large extent of flooding across North Lincolnshire and East Riding of Yorkshire, along the River Trent and Ouse.[66] Altogether the East Riding of Yorkshire Council counted 210 residential properties and 45 commercial properties flooded.[67] 500 properties were flooded in North Lincolnshire across 11 villages.[68]

South along the Lincolnshire coast flooding and damage were less severe, likely due to the lessening winds which were blowing offshore. The grey seal colony at Donna Nook in Lincolnshire was inundated, wardens prepared by opening gates in the fences to allow the seals to escape the flood into the dunes and farmland.[69] Mablethorpe reported debris, and in Skegness some damage to coastal kiosks occurred,[70] south of the town to the visitor's centre at Gibraltar Point nature reserve was damaged by the surge.[71]

Boston, Lincolnshire saw major flooding when flood defence walls were overtopped, damaged or breached as the surge rose to levels above those seen in 1953. The Haven in the town flooded St Botolph's Church, damaging building maintenance equipment in the cellar. 800 homes across 55 streets in the town were flooded.[72] Boston Borough Council released their CCTV footage of the defences being overtopped and resultant flooding.[73]

Homes undermined by the surge Hemsby Norfolk

On the Norfolk coast the lifeboat station at Wells-next-the-sea was flooded.[74] Cromer pier suffered significant damage as waves rebounded off the seawall damaging the deck, along the seafront beach huts were destroyed littering the coast to Overstrand with debris.[74] In Happisburgh sections of cliff were eroded leaving a home hanging over the edge and uninhabitable; at Hemsby homes in the Norfolk sand dune coastline were undermined and fell into the sea.[74]

In Lowestoft, Suffolk, the main harbour area, the railway station and the southern section of the main town centre were flooded, affecting local businesses. Both bridges that connect north and south Lowestoft were underwater for a few hours. Two short dense urban roads were flooded.[75][76][77]

In Suffolk Coastal, the villages of Snape on the Alde-Ore estuary and Waldringfield on River Deben saw 38 properties flooded.[78]

Belgium and Netherlands[edit]

In Belgium, Bredene municipality evacuated 2,083 residents in the district between Sas Slijkens and Spuikom along the Bruges-Ostend canal.[79]

The storm passed without any major damage along the Belgian coast, in Ostend high water measured at 6.33 meters TAW (height above mean low tide), the largest surge to reach the Belgian coast since 1953.[80]

In the port of Antwerp, the C Ladybug came adrift, and was blown across the dock before being re-birthed with the help of two tugs.[81]

In the Western Scheldt shipping was slowed between Vlissingen and Deurgancdok, Antwerp after 5 containers fell off a ship, 4 were empty and one loaded with tapioca, they were eventually washed up near Terneuzen.[81]

In the Netherlands, the water reached the highest level since the North Sea flood of 1953 at 3.99m above normal sea level. In 1953, the water rose to 4.55m on the night of 1 February, and dykes broke in at least 90 places resulting in the worst natural disaster in the Netherlands since the 1900s. The Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier closed all its 62 locks on Thursday night and several areas around Rotterdam experienced some flooding.[82] Minor flooding was also reported in Dordrecht and Vlaardingen.[83]


Winds Xaver proved weaker than expected on the north coast of France near Dunkirk. The maximum premium observed at low tide in Dunkirk was about 2.40 meters, but other important differences between the observed water heights and predicted water heights were measured at Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer.[84]


Flooding in Hamburg's HafenCity

German authorities reported waves up to six metres high, which were the second highest on record since 1825.[85] Some parts of Hamburg flooded, but the city saw no injuries or loss of life reported. The city closed all 38 of its flood gates, which lessened the storm’s impact. The gates protect nearly $14 billion in commodities according to research from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht Center for Materials and Coastal Research.[23] A model Titanic was also sailed in the river Elbe.

Denmark and Sweden[edit]

In Sweden water levels were higher than expected on the western Scania coast, at 150 cm over normal, registering up to 157 cm above mean at Viken, Höganäs Municipality.[86] Citizens were advised to stay indoors [87]

In Denmark, the population was advised to remain indoors. Children were sent home from school before normal school finishing time and some parents were trapped at their place of work. The water levels were higher than expected. Holiday homes in Nørlev Strand were left undermined as the storm eroded sand dunes, along the Jutland coast.[88]


Five people were killed in Poland,[89] including three people in a car when a tree struck it in Poraj, northern Poland. The storm also caused two deaths in the UK[90] and one in Denmark.[91] In Sweden a total of seven people died.[43]


Breached sea dike at Burnham Norton, Norfolk. Seaward side left, with flooded land to the right.

The BBC addressed criticism after it suspended the regular evening news to cover the death of Nelson Mandela, while communities along the coast were still preparing for flooding.[92] Under the Flood and Water Management Act 2010, local authorities normally investigate flooding in their boundaries, however Alun Davies the Welsh Assembly Minister for Natural Resources and Food, instructed Natural Resources Wales to co-ordinate the inquiry in Wales as one comprehensive report.[47]

Member of Parliament for Waveney, Peter Aldous initiated a debate in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom to discuss what went well and what can be improved on a national level in regards to future flood defences/preparations, etc. Within his constituency is the town of Lowestoft, which was affected by the storm. "There is a strong sense in these communities that Parliament has not yet considered properly this narrowly averted national crisis. We need to establish what went right and also what can be improved upon."[93] He also later stated "It is wrong to dismiss these floods as a once in a 500-year occurrence. There were floods six years ago [In this context, note the floods in 2007 didn't affect Mr Aldous' home constituency, but Mr. Aldous is making the point that the risk of flooding is a national problem that needs addressing and not just a regional issue. The flood of 2007 caused £6billion worth of damage]. I think with rising sea levels these are going to be a thing of the future and we do need to be looking at protecting the most vulnerable areas."[94]

Credit Suisse made initial estimates on the cost of damage ranging between €1.4 billion and €1.9 billion.[95] The catastrophe modelling company AIR Worldwide estimated wind losses from the storm would be between €700 million and €1.4 billion.[96] The company said that Xaver's wind impact was likely to be less than that of the St. Jude storm, as it had lower wind speeds, and expected structural damage from high winds to be more limited.[85] Perils AG the catastrophic insurance data company gave an initial estimate of €680 million for insured property losses to the insurance industry on 16 January 2014.[97]

The chief executive of the United Kingdom's Environment Agency said in January 2014 that the storm surge may change the coastline of the UK permanently, as the Agency weighs up whether to abandon some flooded areas permanently to the sea. 373 acres in East Anglia were still underwater in January and some defences and freshwater habitats may not be reinstated along the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts.[98][99] In February 2014 the Environment Agency announced that it had repaired 7 km of defences along the Humber Estuary from Barton upon Humber to Goxhill Haven, with work to the west of Barton due to be completed by March 2014. The agency secured £1.5 million to complete the works after the highest surge ever recorded in the estuary brought destruction to defences along the south Humber bank from Whitton to East Halton.[100]

Subsequent weather[edit]

The December 2013 storm surge on Sheringham seafront.

Through the winter, subsequent Atlantic winter storms in Europe brought three storms to the UK around Christmas, with Cyclone Dirk bringing flooding and transport disruption prior to the holiday. Further storms in the New Year, Cyclones Anne and Christina brought further coastal flooding to the South West of England and the Welsh coast, with heavy rains leading to flooding and stormy seas leaving at least seven people dead and more than 1,700 homes and businesses flooded in England in the period between Christmas and following the Epiphany (holiday) week.[101][102]

Parts of England had the wettest January 2014 from when records began more than 100 years before. In January 2014 more than 30 flood warnings were in place and some 160 flood alerts.[103]

In February 2014 more than 200 properties were evacuated in Somerset and Devon. Police used megaphone warnings from a helicopter to urge residents in the flood-stricken Somerset Levels to leave their homes. Winds of more than 90 mph were recorded.[104]

In response to the coastal flooding in December and subsequent stormy weather the Government enacted the Bellwin scheme. In February David Cameron pledged to provide £100 million to tackle the aftermath of the floods.[104] An extra £30 million was pledged for flood repairs and maintenance on top of the £100 million. Of the £130 million total, £30 million is to be spent in 2014/15 and £100 million in 2015/16. 42 new flood defence schemes were planned for 2014/15.[105]

The UK's National Weather Service The Met Office issued severe weather warnings in February for further storms affecting the United Kingdom.[106] Much of Europe felt the effects of these Atlantic storms. There was flooding in France, large snowfalls in Austria and Slovenia and large waves in Portugal and Spain.[107]

See also[edit]


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