The storm complex moved exceptionally fast, increasing the risk of wind. The intense line of storms hit the Corsican capital Ajaccio on the southwest coast at 8:15 a.m. local time on Thursday, then reached Cap Corse on the northeastern tip around 9:15 a.m., according to the report. Meteociel. That’s a forward speed of about 70 mph.
Preliminary reports of gusts in Corsica include: 140 mph (225 km/h) in Marignana, 128 mph (206 km/h) in L’Île-Rousse, 122 mph (197 km/h) in Calvi and 116 mph (188 kph) in Bocognano, among other things.
Dramatic video from Corsica’s Ajaccio Napoleon Bonaparte Airport shows the extreme destruction that gusts of 136 miles per hour, equivalent to the strength of a Category 4 hurricane, can cause. The wind damaged an Airbus A319, a commercial jet that can hold up to 156 passengers, with one of its wingtips bent by the storm, according to Airlive reporting.
At least five people were killed in and around the French island during the storm, according to the AP: a 13-year-old girl and a 46-year-old man were killed at two campsites; a 72-year-old woman died when a roof collapsed on her vehicle; and two people died at sea — a kayaker and a 62-year-old fisherman, whose bodies washed ashore after the storm.
Several others were injured and at least a dozen people were hospitalized in Corsica, according to the report. The strong wind also left 45,000 people without power.
Further down the system’s path, two people were killed in the Italian province of Tuscany when trees were uprooted, while several others were injured by falling trees at a campsite. In Venice, raging winds threw tables and chairs like toys onto popular St. Mark’s Square, and chunks of brick were ripped straight from St. Mark’s Bell Tower, the tallest structure in the city.
In Piombino, Italy, a dramatic video of the storm shows a Ferris wheel spinning rapidly in the storm, with the wheel’s carriages spiraling out of control as howling winds took over the wheel’s operations. Hailstones the size of walnuts have caused significant damage in Italy’s Liguria region, shattering windows and damaging farmland already scorched by drought, the AP said.
The storm continued to bring intense lightning and high winds even after it ripped through parts of northern Italy. A video from Kranj, Slovenia, shows how fierce winds rip the roof of what appears to be a large apartment complex and damage cars parked below.
In Austria, another amazing video shows power pylons bent in half. According to reports from the Austrian broadcaster ORF, at least 65,000 people in Styria, a province in the heart of Austria, lost power during the storm, which brought gusts of at least 139 km/h (86 mph).
Elsewhere in Austria, at least two children have died in the Carinthia region after high winds toppled trees by a crowded lake.
The storm’s peak winds were seemingly on par with some of the highest ever measured outside the mountains in Europe. Such large-scale strong gusts of wind are uncommon in the region in summer. A majority of widespread wind damage occurs in the fall to spring, usually from strong mid-latitude storm systems dancing along the jet stream.
Some speculate that the storm could meet the requirements of a derecho — a widespread and long-lived storm at least 60 miles wide that inflicts 400 miles of damage. Even then, a complex of storms must have gusts of at least 58 mph for most of its length, with several gusts of at least 75 mph, according to the U.S. National Weather Service.
Every year about one large derecho, or several on a small scale, forms over Europe. According to research by scientists at European Severe Storms Laboratory (ESSL), most of these convective wind storms have a much smaller and less intense footprint than the orbit that occurred Thursday. The location and directional movement also appear to be somewhat unusual.
It is reminiscent of a derecho that hit Germany, including Berlin, in July 2002. That storm complex was responsible for eight deaths and 50 injuries.
Authors of a study on Die Derecho found that “severe convection can reach a magnitude and intensity comparable to that in the United States.”