184 km/h gusts are strongest since records began

Météo France issued a rare red alert for a strong winter storm that hit southwest France on Saturday.

Wind gusts of 160 km/h and higher were recorded in various locations across the region, according to AIR Worldwide.

A 184 km/h gust was recorded in the eastern Pyrenees near Perpignan. According to Météo France, these are some of the strongest winds since records began.

Waves as high as 21 meters were recorded off northern Spain's Basque coast, according to the ministry of the interior.

The forecast was for a storm of similar intensity to 1999's winter storm Martin, though likely of more limited geographic scope,’ said Dr. Peter Dailey, director of atmospheric science at AIR Worldwide.

‘In fact, winter storm Klaus, as yesterday's storm has been dubbed, affected a wider swath than had originally been forecast, causing damage from Dordogne area south to Barcelona, in Spain's Catalunya region.’

‘Across the storm's path, roofs were torn off, signs and awnings downed and automobiles damaged by fallen trees or collapsed masonry walls,’ said Dr. Dailey.

‘French television footage has shown toppled chimneys and overturned trucks. Large tracts of pine forest were flattened by the storm, most notably in the Landes, a department in southwest France on the border with Spain important for its timber industry.’

‘By Sunday morning, more than 1.1 million households were still without electricity, rail networks remained out of service and roads were impassible as a result of downed trees.’

‘By Sunday, firefighters in Tarragona, Alicante and Valencia were working to control existing wildfires that had been fanned by the storm's high winds and new ones sparked by downed electrical lines.’