Europe

Storm Leslie: Portugal hit by hurricane-force winds

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Media captionAbout 1,000 trees have been uprooted by the hurricane-force winds

Hurricane-force winds have struck central and northern Portugal, leaving 300,000 homes without power.

The remnants of Hurricane Leslie swept in overnight on Saturday, with winds gusting up to 176km/h (109mph).

Civil defence officials said 27 people suffered minor injuries, with localised flooding, hundreds of trees uprooted and a number of flights cancelled.

The storm, one of the most powerful to ever hit the country, is now passing over northern Spain.

The worst-affected areas in Portugal were around the capital, Lisbon, and in the districts of Coimbra and Leiria. Aveiro, Viseu and Porto in the north also suffered damage.

About 1,000 trees have been uprooted, officials say. The main A1 motorway was among the roads temporarily blocked.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The storm wreaked havoc throughout Portuguese towns and cities

Some 1,900 incidents were reported to emergency services, although civil defence commander Luis Belo Costa said "the greatest danger has passed".

Hundreds of people remained in an arts centre in Figueira da Foz after a concert because of the high winds.

A resident of the town told SIC television: "I have never seen anything like it, The town seemed to be in a state of war, with cars smashed by fallen trees. People were very worried."

Image copyright Ricardo Oliveira
Image caption The city centre of Figueira da Foz also took damage
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Heavy rainfall from storm Leslie in a market in Pamplona in Spain

The roof blew off a stadium hosting the European final of the women's roller hockey competition, halting the event, AFP news agency reported.

It is rare for an Atlantic hurricane to reach the Iberian peninsula, with only five such events recorded.

Hurricane Leslie had formed on 23 September but was downgraded to a tropical storm before it made landfall. However, it retained gusts of hurricane strength.

The Spanish Meteorological Agency (Amet) said Leslie was moving north-east through the peninsula.

Gusts of almost 100km/h were recorded near the city of Zamora early on Sunday, but winds have now lessened.

Amet said that on Sunday morning large areas of Asturias, Castille and León and Cantabria would be affected, with north-eastern areas hit in the afternoon.

Four departments in southern France have also been put on alert for storms and flooding.

Hurricanes

A guide to the world's deadliest storms

Hurricanes are violent storms that can bring devastation to coastal areas, threatening lives, homes and businesses.

Hurricanes develop from thunderstorms, fuelled by warm, moist air as they cross sub-tropical waters.
Warm air rises into the storm.

Air swirls in to fill the low pressure in the storm, sucking air in and upwards, reinforcing the low pressure.

The storm rotates due to the spin of the earth and energy from the warm ocean increases wind speeds as it builds.

When winds reach 119km/h (74mph), it is known as a hurricane - in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific - or a typhoon in the Western Pacific.

"Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face. Well, we're about to get punched in the face."
Florida Mayor Bob Buckhorn, ahead of Hurricane Irma (2017)

The central eye of calmer weather is surrounded by a wall of rainstorms.
This eyewall has the fastest winds below it and violent currents of air rising through it.

A mound of water piles up below the eye which is unleashed as the storm reaches land.
These storm surges can cause more damage from flooding than the winds.

"Urgent warning about the rapid rise of water on the SW FL coast with the passage of #Irma's eye. MOVE AWAY FROM THE WATER!"
Tweet from the National Hurricane Center

The size of hurricanes is mainly measured by the Saffir-Simpson scale - other scales are used in Asia Pacific and Australia.

Winds 119-153km/h
Some minor flooding, little structural damage.
Storm surge +1.2m-1.5m

Winds 154-177km/h
Roofs and trees could be damaged.
Storm surge +1.8m-2.4m

Winds 178-208km/h
Houses suffer damage, severe flooding
Storm surge +2.7m-3.7m

Hurricane Sandy (2012) caused $71bn damage in the Caribbean and New York

Winds 209-251km/h
Some roofs destroyed and major structural damage to houses.
Storm surge +4m-5.5m

Hurricane Ike (2008) hit Caribbean islands and Louisiana and was blamed for at least 195 deaths

Winds 252km/h+
Serious damage to buildings, severe flooding further inland.
Storm surge +5.5m

Hurricane Irma (2017) caused devastation in Caribbean islands, leaving thousands homeless

"For everyone thinking they can ride this storm out, I have news for you: that will be one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your life."
Mayor of New Orleans Ray Nagin ahead of Hurricane Gustav, 2008

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