Paris: Gale-force winds and pounding rain Tuesday lashed Britain and France, killing at least four people, disrupting Christmas travel and leaving tens of thousands without power.
In Britain, two people died in pre-Christmas storms and there were two other deaths in car accidents linked to bad weather.
A Russian sailor was also feared dead after falling overboard from a damaged cargo ship off the northwest French coast about 220 kilometres from Brest. Rescue workers called off their search late Monday.
In another incident, Swiss sailor Bernard Stamm and French man Damien Guillou were rescued from their racing yacht by a Norwegian vessel. Their boat had been damaged by huge waves and Force 10 winds off the British coast, French maritime officials said.
A total of 240,000 French homes, mainly in the northwestern region of Brittany, were without electricity on Tuesday, according to power supplier ERDF.
About 150,000 homes in Britain were also without power, the Energy Experts Association said, adding that Kent, Surrey and Sussex were among the worst affected.
Air, road and rail traffic was disrupted across France, England and Wales. Ferry services in parts of northern Netherlands were disrupted and a number of buildings have been damaged, including the PSV football stadium in the southern city of Eindhoven.
Britain’s Environment Agency has 276 flood alerts and 162 more severe flood warnings in place, almost 120 of which are in southwest and southeast England. The Highways Agency has warned of dozens of road closures and localised flooding.
The French weather service has put 23 departments on orange alert — its second-highest level — for high winds and waves.
London’s Gatwick Airport was expecting disruption, with some flights likely to be diverted to other airports, and Heathrow also warned of problems and urged passengers to check flight details.
Christmas without lights
Meanwhile, utility crews rushed to restore electricity to hundreds of thousands of people who faced a Christmas without lights after a messy storm downed power lines throughout eastern Canada and from the Midwest to Maine in the US.
Just under 200,000 customers in Canada’s largest city were without power on Monday following a weekend ice storm that wreaked havoc through Ontario to the Atlantic coast, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said on Monday.
Ford said utility workers from Michigan, Manitoba and elsewhere are in Ontario will assist in the efforts to restore power.
More 100,000 customers had power restored in the city, but about 190,000 customers are still without power, Ford said. He called the storm one of the worst in Toronto’s history.
Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines said some customers may not get power back until after Christmas on the 26th.
About 80,000 customers in smaller towns and rural areas in Ontario also remained without power, utility companies said. Nearly 34,000 customers remained without power in Quebec.
An icy mix of rain and freezing rain played havoc with the electricity grid across the Maritime provinces as ice-laden trees fell on power lines. NB Power reported about 49,000 residents and businesses were without power in southern New Brunswick early Tuesday, and another 6,600 were without electricity in Nova Scotia.
While the freezing rain was expected to peter out by Tuesday, Environment Canada senior meteorologist David Phillips warned that the ice the storm brought would remain as temperatures stayed below freezing.
“There’s no natural melting going on,” he said. “It’s going to be human effort and endeavour that will get rid of the sheath of ice that’s covering eastern Canada.”
Roads remained slick and utility crews were busy Tuesday trying to turn the lights back on from the Midwest to the Northeast on one of the busiest travel days of the year after a messy storm rolled across the country.
At least 11 people have been killed in the storm that started Saturday and lingered into late Monday, ice building up on tree branches and power lines and causing travel headaches in several states.
While the rain, freezing rain and ice was expected to subside, forecasters said cold temperatures would stick around for most of the week in areas socked by the wild weekend storm. There will be snow moving into the Northern High Plains and Central Rockies on Tuesday then sliding into the Great Lakes and Midwest by Wednesday morning.
States kept emergency shelters open for people who would be without power, some through Christmas.
Rain and melting snow led to swelling creeks and streams, closed roads and flooded underpasses in Indiana, Ohio and other Great Lakes states. Some creeks were 4 to 9 feet above flood stage and expected to subside by Tuesday.
More than 370,000 homes and businesses were still without power Tuesday morning in Michigan, upstate New York and northern New England, down from Sunday’s peak of more than half a million. About 250,000 of them were in Michigan, whose largest utilities said it’ll be days before power is restored because of the difficulty of working around broken lines.
In Maine, the number of customers without power spiked to more than 100,000, and the cold persisted.