Tornadoes, roads blocked, power cuts: Storm Aurora hits north France

Widespread rail and road disruption as winds of 150km/h blow from west to east causing trees to fall and cutting off electricity to 250,000 homes 

21 October 2021

The winds have brought many branches and trees down. Pic: epsylon_lyrae / Shutterstock

By Emma Morgan

Much of the northern half of France has been affected in the last 24 hours by Storm Aurora, which has brought high winds sweeping from west to east. 

This first storm of the autumn season began yesterday afternoon around Brittany and Normandy before moving overnight towards Ile-de-France and then to the Grand Est region in the early hours of this morning (October 21). 

It has seen 250,000 homes – mostly in Normandy – affected by power cuts, and caused hundreds of roads and train tracks to be blocked by fallen trees. 

There have been no reports of injuries.

Several departments were placed under orange weather alerts for “violent winds” by Météo France, but have now largely returned to green as the storm subsides. 

Brittany 

Even before the storm arrived the sea off the coast of Brittany was choppy, with waves reaching several metres in height and spilling over sea walls. 

As the evening wore on, wind speeds climbed to 140km/h in Plougonvelin (Finistère). 

In the town of Plozévet in south Finistère, a “mini tornado” raged over three kilometres, damaging trees, cars, electricity cables and destroying a house that was being built. 

Fortunately, no one was hurt by the event, but the roof of the mairie was damaged and Mayor Gilles Kérézéon said that he had “never” before seen winds of “such brutality.”

A similar incident occurred in Kernascléden (Morbihan), leading Météo Bretagne to suggest that Brittany had in fact been affected by two tornadoes. 

Between 16:00 and 20:00 yesterday, Morbihan’s prefecture recorded 100 incidents across 61 communes, with 90 trees having fallen across roads and 194 firefighters deployed to address the situation. 

Normandy 

The high winds caused Normandy’s train network to be suspended until 10:00. Branches fallen across the tracks are still causing considerable disruption. 

In the town of Fécamp (Seine-Maritime), wind speeds reached a record 175km/h, while at Cap de la Hève they rose to 150km/h. 

Between 21:00 on Wednesday and the early hours of this morning, the department’s firefighters had been called out to 127 incidents.

This extreme weather caused trees to fall and power cuts to occur in several communes of the department, with roofs being damaged in towns including Heuqueville and Octeville-sur-Mer, where the residents of three houses had to be evacuated. 

Fire and rescue crews were deployed to clear trees fallen across roads in Le Havre and Breauté, while several residents of Agon-Coutainville had to be temporarily rehoused after the wind ripped off 10 metres of their roof.

Ile-de-France

Overnight, winds of 107km/h were recorded in Roissy (Val d’Oise) and the top of the Eiffel Tower withstood gusts of up to 153km/h. The extreme weather has continued to affect the whole of Ile-de-France this morning.

Traffic tracking service Sytadin recorded 387km of traffic jams in Ile-de-France at 08:00 this morning, compared to 200 for a normal Thursday.   

RER and Transilien trains are still disrupted due to fallen trees obstructing the tracks. 

TER trains entering and leaving Paris are also affected by delays this morning. Passengers are advised to check which trains are running before beginning their journey. 

Grand Est 

The Grand Est departments of Ardennes, Marne and Meuse were the last to be taken off Météo France’s orange alert for high winds earlier this morning.

Overnight, wind speeds of up to 170km/h hit Le Markstein ski resort, breaking the 2013 record of 162km/h. 

In Bas-Rhin, fire and rescue services received 198 calls between 03:00 and 07:00 this morning, and around 100 firefighters are still deployed across Alsace. 

In Alsace, certain TER lines are suspended, while in Lorraine and Champagne-Ardenne all services are affected. 

It is hoped that the issues affecting rail travel in the region will be resolved by 12:00.

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Ardennes, Marne and Meuse on orange alert for high winds

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Marseille beaches covered in waste after storms drag rubbish into sea

Are extreme weather alerts becoming more common in France?

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