Germany braces for storm Sabine, transport delays

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The winter storm, named Sabine in Germany, was forecast to slam into the British Isles late Saturday before making its way to northern Europe.

Authorities warned that the weather system, which approached from the Atlantic Ocean, would bring hurricane-strength winds of up to 120 kilometers (75 miles) per hour, heavy rain and thunderstorms to parts of the continent.

The German Meteorological Service (DWD) said Sabine was expected to batter the country's northwest from mid-morning Sunday, and then gradually travel south across central Germany towards Bavaria.

"Overnight into Monday morning the storm will reach southern Germany," Jens Hoffmann, meteorologist at the German Weather Service, told DW. "We expect that there will be heavy gusts of wind in the lowlands, or even hurricane-strength gusts in the low mountain ranges and also in the Alps."

He added that the storm shouldn't be underestimated, and that people should avoid traveling and going outdoors.

"Looking at Sabine's structure, it's a remarkable storm," he said. "We mustn't forget that this is a longer-lasting event. You can't think: 'It's Monday morning, the front has passed.' That's not right — it'll continue."

Read more: Germany among top three countries suffering most from extreme weather events

Sabine/Ciara to wreak havoc

Airport operators in Berlin and Frankfurt said they were monitoring windspeeds closely.

German flagship airline Lufthansa said passengers should prepare for flight cancellations and delays between Saturday and Tuesday, while German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) urged people planning trips during the storm — especially in northern and western Germany — to postpone their travels.

"We've mobilized and doubled all our forces in every region," a DB spokesman said, adding that personnel were prepared to respond to destroyed power lines and fallen trees.

Read more: Storms and drought destroy thousands of acres of German forests

Sabine, which has been dubbed Ciara in other European countries, prompted similar warnings in Britain, Ireland, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The Dutch Football Association canceled all four of Sunday's professional league matches, while KLM canceled dozens of flights to and from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.

In Ireland, part of an opening ceremony celebrating the city of Galway as one of Europe's 2020 cultural capitals was also "canceled in the interests of public safety," organizers said.

The storm is dubbed Ciara and Sabine, explained Hoffmann, because there isn't yet a pan-European system in place for labeling weather systems. It was named Sabine in Germany, in line with a naming list established by the Free University of Berlin back in the 1950s, he said.

nm/shs (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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