A powerful 'windstorm' that authorities are warning could be the worst to hit the European continent in more than half a century barreled over the U.K. Thursday and made way for Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden, threatening massive power outages, extreme flooding in coastal regions, and hurricane-force winds.
Fears that the storm, dubbed Windstorm "Xaver," could bring "the most serious coastal tidal surge for over 60 years in England" overnight have come true, the BBC is reporting:
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) December 5, 2013
Winds in the Scottish highlands surpassed 140 mph. Over 100,000 homes have been left without power across the U.K., 80,000 of them in Scotland, Reuters reports.
"The truly dangerous thing about this storm is that the winds will continue for hours and won't let up," said Andreas Friedrich, a German weather service meteorologist.
Police and council officials said they were evacuating 9,000 homes in the county of Norfolk, eastern England, and 1,000 in Essex, southeastern England, before three high tides over the next 36 hours.
Flooding has started in some areas, with lifeboat staff evacuating several residents in North Wales, and the environment agency issuing more than 40 individual flood warnings.
In the Netherlands -- where 27 percent of the country lies below sea-level -- the landmark Eastern Scheldt storm surge barrier has been closed for the first time in six years.
The barrier was built after the 1953 storm surge.
Dutch authorities said they had issued the highest possible flood warning for four areas in the north and northwest of the country.
Belgium is expected to experience a storm surge of up to 6.1 meters, "the highest for 30 years," said Carl Decaluwe, the governor of West Flanders province.
Weather expert Dr. Jeff Masters at Wundergroud.com said Xaver is likely to be stronger than October's Windstorm Christian, which killed 18, and cost $1.4 billion in damage.
"It is possible that the wind damage from Xaver will approach that of Windstorm Anatol, which hit Denmark, Southwest Sweden, and Northern Germany on December 3, 1999," adds Masters. "Anatol had sustained winds of up to 91 mph (146 kph), killed 20 people, and injured over 800. Damage was $2.6 billion (1999 dollars) in Denmark, making it the costliest disaster in Danish history."
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