2003 - PART 4: THE NOVEMBER 14th "BOMB"
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a "bomb" in weather terms?? It is a
rapidly-developing low-pressure system that deepens
explosively over 24 hours into a potentially violent
Atlantic cyclone. Such systems are always noteworthy
events that may cause massive damage and casualties. It
all depends on how deep they become, how big the actual
system is, what its track will be and what time of year
it strikes (it's easier for winds to flatten a tree in
full leaf, for example, as it offers more resistance).
This storm began to form on November 12 out in the
eastern Atlantic. In the satellite pic above (thanks
again to Bernard Burton), taken at lunchtime on November
13th, a tight swirl of cloud-bands spins along off to the
SW of Eire, with the tightest pressure gradient and
strongest winds running around its S and W flanks. On
November 14th the low-pressure centre tracked across the
UK with the strongest winds (max recorded gust 84mph -
Pembrey) in a fairly narrow swathe across Wales. The
coasts bore the brunt and had it been a Spring instead of
a Neap-tide chaos would have been caused. However high
water was 4.2m (Aberystwyth scale) as opposed to a
potential maximum of 5.6m!
I'd been approached by a TV company wanting to make a
programme about storm-chasing some months earlier but the
few convective days in between had prevented anything
being done up until now. So I voiced the idea of an
Altantic Storm-chase and it was accepted.
Despite force 9 to 11 winds being forecast for sea area
Irish Sea, it didn't seem that windy when I rose at 6am
on the 14th, to check the data, but I thought the coast
would still be the best bet. Basically the storm had
stalled over Eire during the night, so was a bit late
arriving but was still expected. Thus after breakfast we
found ourselves heading to the prom at Tywyn, awaiting
high-tide which was around 10.30am, and as that time
approached the winds increased and increased...
This sequence of images shows the beach white
...and foam being blown up like snow....
...and utterly mountainous seas. The poles along
the groyne-ends are about 18ft high for scale....
... the Beaufort scale describes Storm Force 10
(48-55 knots) winds in several ways, including
"sea white with densely blown foam".
About right then....
....keeping one's balance was not always easy and
I had to keep going back to the car to get the
salt, foam etc off my camera...
The intrepid Nia (chase partner for the day,
director, camera and sound all-in-one!) getting
the "sound of the storm"(L) and hoping
I'm going to say something sensible (like Sod
This, Let's Go To The Pub - R). All through this
intermittent heavy rain was lashing us
horizontally and good waterproofs were letting
both of us down. She later told me that these
were the worst conditions she'd ever had to film
in, but she seemed to be enjoying the
We retired battered to Aberdyfi, where boats are
moored in a relatively sheltered estuary harbour
about a mile inland with the open sea (normally)
accessed over the notorious Bar. Even here it was
unusually rough and while Nia continued filming I
concentrated on these two moored boats as they
pitched and tossed about like corks!
I felt seasick just watching them!
Whoaaa! Good to be on Terra Firma....
job was almost finished by lunchtime and we did
retire to the nearest pub where a roaring fire
and a glass of malt whisky soon had us, our
waterproofs and cameras steaming cheerfully.
But before that I found this potted palm tree so
thought I'd better get a "hurricane
pic" - they always have palms in them, being
The winds eased quickly into the afternoon as the
low-pressure centre moved away NE. Good thing
too, I was wet through and frozen and was longing
for a hot bath! We headed back to Machynlleth,
noting branches down in places and a lot of small
debris littering the roads. A bit of a different
"chase day" then but it was great to
get out there into the weather again!
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