Cyclone Xynthia
Xynthia animated small.gif
24-hour animation from 17:00, 27 February
Formed26 February 2010
Dissipated7 Μarch 2010
Highest winds
Lowest pressure967 mb (28.56 inHg)
Fatalities63;[2][3][4] 12 missing[4]
Damage€1.3–3 billion[nb 1][1]
Areas affectedBelgium, Denmark, France, England, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden

Cyclone Xynthia was an exceptionally violent European windstorm which crossed Western Europe between 27 February and 1 March 2010. It reached a minimum pressure of 967 mb (28.6 inHg) on 27 February.[5] In France—where it was described by the civil defence as the most violent since Lothar and Martin in December 1999—at least 51 people were killed, with 12 more said to be missing. A further six people were killed in Germany, three in Spain, one in Portugal, one in Belgium and another one in England.[2] Most of the deaths in France occurred when a powerful storm surge topped by battering waves up to 7.5 m (25 ft) high, hitting at high tide, smashed through the sea wall off the coastal town of L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer.[6] A mobile home park built close to the sea wall was particularly hard-hit.[6] The sea wall was about two hundred years old, built in the time of Napoleon; critics said that situating a mobile home park so close to the sea wall showed poor coastal development practices.[6] The storm cut power to over a million homes in France and a million customers in Portugal lost power.


One million homes were left without power in western France. In the Hautes-Pyrénées, falling trees damaged vehicles, the roofs of houses and barns were blown away, and rocks were falling onto the road.[7] In the département of Vendée, cities like La Faute-sur-Mer, L'Aiguillon-sur-Mer, La Tranche-sur-Mer were flooded with water levels reaching up to 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in).[7] Flooding affected parts of the Charente-Maritime département (Suburbs of La Rochelle,[8] cities of Fouras, Marennes, Châtelaillon as well as and Oléron Island[9]) where high speed wind were registered (160 km/h [99 mph]).[10]

Flooded railway tracks led to railway delays in France and the rail services in northern Spain were also severely affected. 70 flights from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport were cancelled by Air France.[4]

The storm also caused damage in Portugal and Spain. The strongest wind gust recorded in Portugal was 166 km/h (103 mph)[11] while in Spain a gust of 228 km/h (142 mph) was recorded.[12] In France a 241 km/h (150 mph) wind gust was recorded at the Pic du Midi.

The storm may have been exacerbated by the spread of volcanic ash from the Soufrière Hills volcano.[13] A cloud of ash from the volcano was dragged over the United Kingdom, forming a visible haze to the north-west of Xynthia on visible satellite imagery.

On March 11, 2010, catastrophe risk modeling firm EQECAT estimated wind losses for affected countries excluding Portugal and Spain as follows: Mean damage: €1.3 billion (approximately US$1.8 billion); Mean insured gross loss: €994 million (approximately US$1.4 billion).[14] One year after the event, the insurance industry loss aggregator PERILS AG published its final loss estimate for Xynthia of €1.32bn, excluding the French indemnified losses.[15]


Protest against eviction after Xynthia, in Aytré, France
Protest against eviction after Xynthia, in Aytré, France

Météo-France issued its second highest warning (orange) for 27 February and early 28 February for Andorra, Ain, Ariège, Cantal, Finistère, Haute-Garonne, Gironde, Isère, Loire, Haute-Loire and Hautes-Pyrénées. It issued its highest warning level (red) for the Charente-Maritime, Vendée, Deux-Sèvres and Vienne.[7]

Helicopters were sent to rescue people on their roofs following flooding in Charente-Maritime and Vendée, France.[7] An emergency meeting was held on 28 February by French Prime Minister François Fillon following the effects in France.[7]

The Portuguese Institute of Meteorology issued red warnings for the northern parts of the country for winds up to 150 km/h (93 mph), the rest of the country being with orange warnings for wind gusts up to 120 km/h (75 mph).


The French Government declared the 2010 floods a “catastrophe”.[16] A historical study of coastal surges in France conducted after the storm indicated that there had been no previous coastal surge in France with such a high death toll.[16]

In response to the coastal flooding brought by Xynthia, the French Government announced on 8 April 2010 that it had decided to destroy 1,510 houses in the affected areas of which 823 were in the Vendée and 595 were in Charente-Maritime.[16] The government promised to fully compensate all home-owners, based on the value of the real estate prior to the storm, with the ministry of finance stating that they would pay €250,000 per house.[16] In Vendée of the 823 homes designated by the French state to be destroyed, nearly 700 homeowners accepted the compensation terms by the state with demolition taking place in March 2011.[16] In 2011 there remained 79 people who decided to fight the destruction of their homes via the legal system.[16]

The French Government produced a document called Rapid inundation plan: coastal floods, flash floods and dike failures -“Plan submersions rapides: submersions marines, crues soudaines et ruptures de digues” in February 2011.[16] This plan details the policy response brought about not only as a result of Xynthia in February 2010, but also severe June 2010 flash flooding in the Var Department in southern France that led to the deaths of 25 people.[16]

Observed wind gusts

Wind gusts recorded during Xynthia storm in France and Switzerland :[17]

Country Location Speed Comments
km/h kn mph
France Pic du Midi de Bigorre 238 129 148 at 2,877 m (9,439 ft)
France Puy de Dôme 209 113 130 at 1,415 m (4,642 ft)
France Le Markstein 172 93 107 at 1,184 m (3,885 ft)
France Scillé 161 87 100 plain maximum value for the storm
France Île de Ré 160 86 99
France Paris (Tour Eiffel) 155 84 96
France Chouilly 148 80 92
France Luchon 147 79 91
France Celles-sur-Ource 144 78 89
France Saint Agnant, Pointe de Chassiron (Ile d'Oléron) 140 76 87
France Sainte-Gemme-la-Plaine, Brindas, Chastreix 138 75 86
France Royan 137 74 85
France Metz 136 73 85
France Châteauroux, Blois, La Rochelle 132 71 82 1999 records beaten for Châteauroux and Blois
France La Roche-sur-Yon, Fontenay-le-Comte 131 71 81
France Cap-Ferret, Cap-Ferret 130 70 81
France Nangis 128 69 80
France Niort 127 69 79
France Roissy-en-France 126 68 78
France Bourges 125 67 78
France Poitiers 123 66 76
France Paris (Montsouris) 122 66 76
France Lyon 105 57 65
Switzerland Les Diablerets 148.3 80.1 92.1 at 2,966 m (9,731 ft)
Switzerland Altdorf 147.2 79.5 91.5 at 449 m (1,473 ft) high
Switzerland Evionnaz 124.9 67.4 77.6 at 480 m (1,570 ft) high
Switzerland La Dole 121.1 65.4 75.2 at 1,677 m (5,502 ft)
Switzerland Piz Corvatsch 119.9 64.7 74.5 at 3,451 m (11,322 ft)
Switzerland Quarten, Moléson 115.6 62.4 71.8 respectively at 420 and 2,002 m (6,568 ft)
Switzerland Oron-la-Ville 112 60 70 at 830 m (2,720 ft) high
Switzerland Le Bouveret 108.7 58.7 67.5 at 375 m (1,230 ft) high
Switzerland Aigle 105.1 56.7 65.3 at 381 m (1,250 ft) high
Switzerland Glaris 101.9 55.0 63.3 at 1,478 m (4,849 ft)


  1. ^ Equivalent to 1.45 to 33.47 billion 2010 USD


  1. ^ International News, (3 March 2010). "AIR Estimates Windstorm Xynthia Insured Losses at $2 to $4.1 Billion". AIR Worldwide. Wells Publishing, Inc. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  2. ^ a b, Xinhuanet (3 March 2010). "Violent winter storm kills 62 in western Europe". Xinhua News Agency. Archived from the original on April 26, 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2010.
  3. ^ Europe, CNN (28 February 2010). "Storm batters Europe, at least 55 dead". Paris, France: Cable News Network. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  4. ^ a b c "At least 50 dead in western Europe storms". BBC News. 28 February 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  5. ^ CAT Updates, RMS. "Storm Xynthia". Risk Management Solutions, Inc. Archived from the original on 6 March 2010. Retrieved 23 June 2010.
  6. ^ a b c Staff (1 March 2010) "Weak sea walls blamed for France storm disaster " BBC News
  7. ^ a b c d e "Au moins 40 morts après le passage de la tempête Xynthia" (in French). 28 February 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  8. ^ "Rescapés des eaux" (in French). 28 February 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  9. ^ "Un cataclysme en Oléron" (in French). 28 February 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  10. ^ "La tempête Xynthia des 27-28 février 2010" (in French). 28 February 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
  11. ^ "Intensidade de vento no Continente" (in Portuguese). 1 March 2010. Retrieved 1 March 2010.
  12. ^ "Estación C072-Orduña Información del dato validado" (in Spanish). 28 February 2010. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  13. ^ Yim, Wyss; Huang, Judy; Chan, Johnny C.L. (June 2010). "Volcanoes, dust, and storms". The Geological Society. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  14. ^ "EQECAT Estimates Losses for Wind Storm Xynthia". 11 March 2010.
  15. ^ "Inside Newsletter" (PDF). PERILS AG. April 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-01-08. Retrieved 2012-09-26.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g h Lumbroso, D. M.; Vinet, F. (2011). "A comparison of the causes, effects and aftermaths of the coastal flooding of England in 1953 and France in 2010" (PDF). Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences. 11 (8): 2321–2333. Bibcode:2011NHESS..11.2321L. doi:10.5194/nhess-11-2321-2011. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
  17. ^ Météo France