Meteorologists warned the country would be hard hit by hurricane-force winds on Saturday and in the end, when the windstorm hit, the damages were extensive. Downed high-voltage wires, fallen trees, even some roofs torn from buildings. As well: almost a million people without power and a toll of several injured and two dead. The storm, dubbed “Emma”, struck just 13 months after similar hurricane force winds hit the country last year.
A high-voltage pylon snapped over a stretch of highway in the Czech countryside was just one of many sobering sights from Saturday’s windstorm Emma, which struck early in the afternoon and wreaked havoc throughout parts of the Czech Republic. Hurricane-force winds hitting up to 140 kilometres an hour brought down trees, tore sections of roofs from buildings, and bent public signs in areas. And that’s not all: outages saw as many as 920,000 people without electricity, leaving the state-run power utility ČEZ scrambling to right the crisis in four of the country’s fourteen regions. On Saturday evening 100 thousand homes were still without electricity. Frantíšek Šopko, of the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, says that Saturday’s storm was not common but also could not be ruled out, pointing out that experts gave advance warning:
“We knew it was coming and we issued our first forecasts on Tuesday, with warnings then added on Friday. The winds were really strong, in one area 144 kilometres per hour, although the storm was arguably less fearsome than Hurricane Kyrill last year. On the other hand, the gales proved dangerous, very dangerous, picking up within the space of five minutes or less, in some places accompanied by rain and hail.”
Despite general warnings by meteorologists for members of the public to remain indoors, the storm did catch some pedestrians and motorists off guard. Two Czechs lost their lives: one, an 80-year-old priest, was hit by a piece of windswept metal while an 11-year-old girl was killed by a falling branch. Twelve people were killed in similar conditions in neighbouring Germany, Poland, and Austria on the same day. In the Czech Republic since Sunday: power lines have since been restored and some of the debris gradually cleared. But the country will still have to tally up the full extent of the damage, estimated in the millions of crowns.