As winds of up to 104mph swept across the UK, the Channel Islands were particularly badly affected by the severe thunderstorm, which is thought to be the worst to hit the small island of Jersey since 1987.
Residents on the island endured a “terrifying” night as dozens were forced to flee their homes, while a tornado warning was issued by the Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (TORRO) from south Wales to London, as winds and heavy rain brought havoc.
Hundreds of schools were closed in the south of England because of the risk to pupils, after the Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for winds that were “strong and potentially disruptive” in the southwest, Wales, London, the southeast and the east of England.
Amid heavy rain on Thursday afternoon, the Environment Agency said flooding was expected in 82 areas, most on the south coast. A further 197 alerts were in place for possible flooding across England.
Southern Rail urged commuters to work from home if possible and to avoid non-essential journeys due to a strong risk of falling trees and debris on the tracks.
Schools on Jersey will not reopen until Monday, the island’s government has said, and others across the south of England were likely to also remain closed for a second day.
If they managed to sleep at all, islanders woke up on Thursday morning to massive amounts of damage in what looked like “a scene from a disaster movie”.
Images of roofs torn off of houses, windows blown in, and cars crushed under trees were posted by residents on social media.
Father-of-three Carl Walker, 45, slept in the front room of his home in St Helier with his family due to safety fears.
“The authorities sent out plenty of warnings to islanders to prepare, however, I don’t think anyone was quite ready for the strength of the winds we experienced last night and this morning,” the Jersey Consumer Council chairman told The Independent. “It’s like nothing anyone can ever recall.”
He added: “Some properties have had their roofs torn off and golf ball-sized hailstones fell and damaged cars and houses. They smashed through car windows and conservatories. The damage has been devastating.
“I could hear tiles falling from the roof. It was like a scene from a disaster movie. When it peaked at around 5am I went up to the top floor and it felt like the roof was about to lift off.”
Fellow St Helier resident Samantha Kelly, 37, woke up to see her car crushed by a fallen tree.
The administrator said the tree had to stay lodged on top of her Kia until the landowners can find someone who can remove it – which may prove difficult as residents across the island face similar problems.
She told The Independent: “I haven’t yet ventured out further than to see the damage to my car and then came back outside. It’s too dangerous outside.”
As the storm rages on, islanders have been advised to stay at home and to only travel if it is essential or if they are essential workers.
The Jersey Met Office said the island briefly saw winds reaching Hurricane Force 12 while Jersey Fire and Rescue Service said gusts of up to 104mph were recorded on the island.
Islanders are also facing travel chaos after all flights from Jersey, Guernsey and Alderney airports on Thursday have been cancelled.
— JJ Gallagher (@jjgallagher3) November 2, 2023
Speaking about Wednesday night’s weather, Ms Kelly continued: “It was horrible but I tried to sleep through it the best I could and not think about what was happening.
“I live in an almost glass house and to hear the wind and rain battering on the glass was very scary. I just prayed the glass wouldn’t break.
“Thankfully it’s just a car, and as much as I loved it, it can be replaced. We are a little island and we will all pull through it together as a community.”
Other residents took to social media to share pictures of the damage. One user posted to X, formerly Twitter, to show the roof of his neighbour’s home lying in the road, while his own had 20 tiles missing.
This is the scene in Princess Place, St Clement. The parish seems to have been very badly hit, possibly by the reported tornado which struck around midnight before the strongest winds of #StormCiaran arrived. pic.twitter.com/IMDM1Fb5ap
— Consumer Carl (@CarlWalker7) November 2, 2023
A local table tennis centre has closed “until further notice” after strong winds left the community “devastated”. Pictures posted to Facebook show the roof torn off the structure with internal wall insulation scattered across equipment.
Residents in St Clements were reportedly hit particularly badly by the storm. A local man posted on social media that his roof was “everywhere” and their windows were “blown in”.
He added that his family were relocated to a hotel and thanked the emergency services.
Nearly 150,000 homes were left without power and by 4pm on Thursday, around 11,300 properties still had no electricity.
Some 135,700 had been reconnected, the Energy Networks Association (ENA) said.
In Dorset, firefighters rescued 70 people from 198 caravans at Freshwater Holiday Park in Burton Bradstock, near Bridport, where some were taken to dry land by boat.
Across the UK, several yellow weather warnings were still in place for southern England, including London, and Wales. Yellow warnings for rain are set to remain in place in the southeast until Saturday night.
One is also in place until 6am on Friday for northeast England and Scotland, stretching up to Inverness.