Cyclone “Billie” could be a top-ten storm

The ‘weatherbomb’ low pressure system that lashed the British isles with gale-force winds and moved across Scandinavia this week reached the coast of Latvia Friday afternoon, reports the state meteorology service.  The storm has been christened “Billie” by Germany’s weather service and it has Latvia braced for the impact of what could become one of the top eight to twelve storms in its recorded history.

At 16:00 hours on Friday the storm was developing according to forecasts as it crossed Denmark and Sweden with wind gusts not yet reaching speeds of 30 meters per second. However, they will begin to exceed 30 meters per second after about 20:00 hours as ‘Billie’ keeps moving east across the Baltic sea.

Overnight to Saturday winds will continue to pick up in speed, with the storm’s culmination coming to Kurzeme between 04:00 and 10:00 hours (gusts up to 28-34 m/s), while coastal Vidzeme will feel it about three hours later (25-30 m/s). Riga can expect the height of the winds between the hours of 06:00 and 11:00, where they will be between 18-22 meters per second.

The issuance of a red alert is the first since the color-coded weather warning system was introduced in Latvia. Inland Kurzeme and Vidzeme are rated orange-alert, while further inland in southcentral Zemgale and eastern Latgale provinces as well as around Riga, the alert for 'Billie' will be at yellow-level.

During the second half of the day Saturday winds will begin to gradually die down.

The state Fire and Rescue Service (VUGD) is warning all residents to prepare for staying safely inside for the duration of the storm unless absolutely necessary to venture out. People are being urged to charge their cell phones fully and put fresh batteries in their flashlights and radio sets so they are prepared in case of electrical outages.

Apartment house residents and private homeowners are being reminded to remove or fasten down all unsecured objects in yards and on balconies. Automobile owners are being urged to park their cars out of the way of tree branches that could come down in the storm. Pedestrians should stay away from trees, billboards, awnings and stay off of bridges, if possible.

Because of the rough surf expected during the hurricane-force storm, the VUGD is also reminding people to stay off the treacherous breakwater jetties, which protrude from many harbors in Latvia out into the open sea.

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