The Burns Day Storm

  • The Burns Day Storm
    25.01.2011 09:17


    January 25 marks the 21st anniversary of the Burns Day Storm.

    It was one of the most powerful and costly storms known in the United Kingdom and killed an estimated 47 people. Although not quite as fierce as the Great Storm of 1987 that devastated a lot of southern England, the Burns Day Storm caused more fatalities because its strongest winds were more widespread and because it arrived during the day and not while much of the population was abed.

    The storm had its genesis as a perturbation or wave on a cold front strung across the Atlantic. This wave amplified and was quickly enveloped by a strengthening wind circulation as air pressure dropped. A low pressure system developed with a central pressure of 992mb on January 24 1990.

    By the morning of January 25 it had arrived in Northern Ireland, deepening further, then moved across Ayrshire, close to Robert Burns’s birthplace in Alloway. It then crossed Lanarkshire and the Lothians, and the lowest pressure of 949mb was recorded at about 4pm near Edinburgh.

    The strongest winds were not close to the storm's centre, though - they rarely are. Instead the highest winds were to the south across Wales and England, especially south of a line from mid-Wales to Suffolk. Steady winds of 46 to 58mph were measured in many places, higher in some locations such as Sheerness in Kent where the sustained wind peaked at 74mph.

    The most damage probably came from sudden gusts and squalls, which peaked at 107mph at Aberporth in Ceredigion and at Gwennap Head in Cornwall. About three million trees were felled, and around half a million homes lost power.

    Parts of Wales and southern England had even stronger winds than in the 1987 storm but damage was less extensive to woods and forests because deciduous branches were bare and presented less resistance to the wind than the foliage still present in October ’87.

    Burns Day 2011 holds no such hazards. It will be breezy and drizzly in places, and then an increasingly cold northerly wind will follow tonight, enough to encourage anyone to stay indoors, enjoy a Burns Supper and raise a toast to the Bard of Ayrshire. Slàinte maith, h-uile latha!

    By: Stephen Davenport