|Home | About | Journals | Submit | Contact Us | Français|
On Thursday 18 January 2007, heavy storms battered England and much of Europe. The Meteorological Office reported that wind speeds were the highest in the UK in 17 years. Recorded winds between 70–80 mph tore across Britain, blowing trees across rail lines, cutting off power to thousands, and causing roofs to collapse. Across Britain, there were three weather related deaths: two deaths caused by collapsing walls and one due to a falling tree crushing its victim. We examined the attendance in accident and emergency for the 6 h period following the severe weather that hit the UK earlier that morning and assessed its impact on the hospital services. An audit of accident and emergency activity performed on that day in a busy London hospital revealed the following.
Three hundred and nine patients were seen on the 18 January in our accident and emergency department, of which 120 were seen between 13:00 and 19:00. Eleven patients (9.2%) cited storm wind as being a contributory factor for their attendance. Nine of these patients were women and 10 were over the age of 60 years. Table 11 lists the recorded injuries.
Although the overall attendance over the 24 h period was not increased, there was an unusually high activity for the same 6 h time frame in the accident and emergency department. Nine per cent of the patients seen were wind related injuries with some patients presenting with more than one injury. Seven of the 11 patients required inpatient management. We are aware of two other fractures that required inpatient surgical treatment that presented outside our time frame.
These figures highlight the true human cost of “wind damage” in an area of north west London. The economic cost of seven additional surgical admissions in this small patch of the country may have been mirrored all over the country. Although the Department of Health does provide London with emergency planning weather, environmental and temperature warnings, our data suggest that early weather warnings by the Met Office may need to be directed at high risk groups, notably elderly women.
Competing interests: None declared.
The authors are grateful for the accident and emergency staff for their help on the day of the storm and in collating the data