Second massive storm in two weeks hits North Atlantic and Western Europe

By Jeff Berardelli

/ CBS News

Winter storm whips up strong winds

One of the strongest storms in modern history is pummeling the North Atlantic and western Europe with massive waves and hurricane force winds. The system's name is Dennis and it comes less than a week after storm Ciara helped power a British Airways flight to a new trans-Atlantic speed record over 800 mph.

Dennis is massive, spanning more than 3,000 miles in width from eastern Canada to Scandinavia. The behemoth's pressure dropped to 920 millibars near Iceland this weekend, on par with the most intense hurricanes including Hurricane Maria in 2017 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The lower the millibars – a measure of atmospheric pressure – the stronger the storm, and Dennis' barometric pressure is just 7 millibars short of the record-strongest North Atlantic non-tropical storm from 1993.

Storm Dennis will create another quick-moving jet stream one week after several flights broke transatlantic flight time records thanks to a boost from a storm-enhanced jet stream. CBS News

On Friday and Saturday, wind gusts in Iceland reached well over hurricane force, clocking in at an astounding 256 km/hr, or 159 mph.

L'Islande, l'Ecosse et le nord de l'Angleterre ressentent les 1ers effets de la #tempêteDENNIS, avec une incroyable rafale à 255,6 km/h mesurée à Hafnarfjall à 40 km à l'ouest de Reykjavik capitale islandaise hier.

— La Chaîne Météo (@lachainemeteo) February 15, 2020

The storm has since weakened, but is still raking Scotland and Ireland with gusts up to 75 mph along with torrential rains and intense street flooding.

Two cars dangerously trying to drive through Pontypridd flooding

— Stephen Fairclough (@stephenfairc) February 16, 2020

All weekend, average wave heights in the North Atlantic ranged from 40 to 60 feet, with rogue waves easily topping 100 feet.

A chart showing wave heights resulting from storm Dennis. CBS News

A relentless onslaught of foamy surf turned streets in Northern France into bubble baths.

Impressionnante images de la Bretagne après le naufrage d'un cargo transportant du bain moussant.

— Nain Portekoi (@Nain_Portekoi) February 16, 2020

The storm system has been stalled over the North Atlantic for the past couple of weeks. It is part of a massive parent vortex traveling along the jet stream and feeding itself by swallowing smaller systems. This constant supply of energy, and sprawling circulation, has powered a few near-record-setting jet streams.

A map showing the path of the storm-enhanced jet stream. CBS News

The upper-level jet stream winds have reached 270 mph, providing a super charged tail-wind for flights traveling eastward. For the second weekend in a row, flights from the U.S. to Europe have clocked speeds of over 800 mph, reaching their destinations more than an hour early.

Remarkable ground speeds with flights across the Atlantic tonight:

BA174 821 mph
BA112 815 mph
BA176 809 mph

While the speeds exceed the speed of sound, the flights did not break the sound barrier, as their cruise speed in the surrounding air was still the same. #flights

— Matthew Cappucci (@MatthewCappucci) February 15, 2020

💨 La tempête Dennis arrive aujourd’hui sur la France !

Les atterrissages étaient rock’n’roll hier à Londres comme ici avec cet A380 d’Etihad.

📹 speedbirdtv

— air plus news (@airplusnews) February 16, 2020

Stormy weather will continue through Tuesday with Dennis gradually winding down by midweek.

First published on February 16, 2020 / 8:43 PM

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Jeff Berardelli

Meteorologist Jeff Berardelli is a CBS News Climate & Weather Contributor. Follow him on Twitter @WeatherProf.