HURRICANE FORCE 12 WIND GUSTS – 4th March 2009

A deep low pressure system with central pressure of 989hPa passed to the north of the Maltese Islands dragging with it a warm front late on Wednesday 4th March 2009 which brought with it some scattered rain and a rather humid and warm air mass. This was followed by the passage of a cold front bringing with it a strong veering of winds.

Cars were damaged by falling stones in Mellieha and St Julians and a sailing yacht went adrift between Manoel Island and Ta’ Xbiex last night as gale force winds battered the Maltese islands.

A police spokesman said reports of damage were received from all over Malta as well as Gozo. The cars in Mellieha and St Julian’s were damaged when walls collapsed.

The Armed Forces of Malta said the skipper of the sailing yacht ‘Fusion’ alerted the AFM’s Operations Centre that his vessel was adrift between Manuel Island and Ta’ Xbiex. The Maritime Squadron’s search-and-rescue launch ‘Melita-1′ was deployed and managed to secure the yacht alongside the Gozo-ferry berth in Sa Maison, Pieta`.

The Civil Protection Department was also busy on the roads, clearing debris strewn over the streets by the strong wind and the rain. Four sizeable tree trunks were reported to the AFM after they were found blocking Council of Europe Road in Luqa. The AFM deployed a bulldozer which cleared the road. The AFM also cleared debris from a collapsed wall in Mdina Road, Zebbug.

Trees were uprooted in many localities, including a large 40-year-old tree near the law courts in Valletta. At Zabbar a bus shelter was pulled from its mountings by the wind. Hoardings in a number of localities were also damaged.

Damage was also reported to the Xarolla windmill in Zurrieq,, which dates back to the time of the knights. The windmill was built in 1724 and was restored in 1992. It was administered by the local council and was a popular cultural venue. Last night’s wind destroyed nearly all of its vanes.

A maximum gust of 142.5 km/h from the SSE was registered at Mellieha at 22.11 local time. Other localities also experienced strong wind gusts, with maximum gusts as follows: Zejtun = 85.1km/h, Zebbug (Malta) = 109.2km/h, Mgarr = 92.5km/h, Naxxar = 85.3km/h, Rabat = 92.5km/h, Nadur = 103.0km/h.