Aftermath of the storms: Electricity outages, damage to buildings and cars

Storm makes landfall on Saaremaa, Monday, August 7, 2023.
Storm makes landfall on Saaremaa, Monday, August 7, 2023. Source: Margus Muld/ERR

Extreme storms which hit Western and Southern Estonia Monday have led to around 160 emergency call-outs, the Rescue Board (Päästeamet) says, with fallen trees and damaged buildings and windows among the incidents.

No serious injuries relating to the weather conditions have been reported thus far.

Meanwhile, as of 9 p.m. Monday, close to 9,000 households and other electricity customers were without power, primarily in Harju, Rapla and Pärnu counties, though by 11 p.m. that night the number had fallen to 4,000.

Electricity infrastructure service Elektrilevi says it will continue to eliminate outages from early morning Tuesday.

Elektrilevi brigades are working on troubleshooting in two shifts nationwide. 

The adverse weather conditions can increase the time it takes to resolve faults, while Elektrilevi.

The Environmental Agency's (Keskonnaagentuur) weather service on Monday morning forecast strong storms in Western and Southern Estonia, issuing a Level 3 (highest) warning.

While Monday morning was near-perfect sailing weather, with high temperatures and strong winds, as the day progressed things became more or less the opposite of that.

As of lunchtime the storm front, formed from the eastern edge of an area of low pressure which brought warm air from the South, had hit Saaremaa, with hailstones up to 7cm in diameter hitting parts of the island, and wind speeds of up to 29 m/s (Force 11 on the Beaufort Scale).

ERR's Saaremaa correspondent Margus Muld reported that hot weather on Monday morning rapidly transformed into menacing dark clouds from the direction of Latvia as the day wore on.

In addition to the hail stones, which apparently caused damage to greenhouses and car windscreens, heavy rain caused flooding in the streets of Kuressaare, Saaremaa's capital, at around 4 p.m.

Hailstones as big as eggs falling on Saaremaa's Sõrve Peninsular on Monday. Source: Deandra Sepp

In addition to Saaremaa, the Level 3 warning applied to the adjacent island of Hiiumaa and other smaller islands in the vicinity, Pärnu County in the Southwest of Estonia, Lääne County in the West, and Viljandi, Valga and Võru counties, in South Estonia.

A Level 3 warning presents a danger to health and well-being, and calls for preparation for storm conditions (see below) and vigilance over conditions.

South of the border in Latvia, which on Sunday night had recorded an all-time high so far as nighttime temperatures go, thunderstorms and hail wrought mayhem in much the same way as in Estonia, with power lines between Dobele, in the center of the country, and the Lithuanian border damaged the most – wind speeds of 33 m/s (Force 12, ie. hurricane force) were reported in the vicinity.

To the North, in Finland, the storm was given a name, "Storm Hans," Yle reports.

After lunch, in several areas, warnings were either downgraded to Level 2, or a Level 2 warning was put in place for the first time, as the front spread North and East. Järva, Jõgeva, Tartu and Põlva counties were issued with Level 2 warnings, which urge caution when moving outside.

Elsewhere, the island of Ruhnu, which lies in the Gulf of Riga, lost its connection to the mainland on Monday as the Runö ferry, which provides the service, was unable to sail, due to conditions.

In Tallinn and Tartu, parking services provided EuroPark permitted many of its larger, multi-floor covered parking lots to be open to all, free-of-charge, overnight. This freed up thousands of spaces in central Tallinn alone, though uptake was high. Since most large car parks are automated and unstaffed, the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) were reportedly drafted in to regulate parking.

That the covered parking lots were open at all was mainly so that car owners could avoid storm potential damage to their cars.

The authorities issued advice ahead of the storm's arrival, including securing or storing loose items in yards and other outdoor areas, fully charging phones, stocking up on food and water, disconnecting household appliances from the mains, and ensuring vehicles have a full gas tank.

During the storm, the public were urged to stay indoors – and if they found themselves outdoor for any reason, to avoid isolated trees, masts and other structures, fences etc.

Where possible, not using running water in the home – water pipes can conduct lightning – and avoiding using a wood burning stove or fireplace, since smoke can back up into a room in stormy conditions.

Checking up on elderly and other vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbors, as well as keeping up to date on weather reports, was also advised.

Downed electricity cables should be called in on 1343 inside Estonia, while the emergency services number is the pan-European 112 number.

Elektrilevi carries an outages map updated in real time, here.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Marko Tooming, Merili Nael

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