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Base exchange patrons fight strong winds during lunch hour Thursday at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The 21st Operational Weather Squadron released a severe-weather warning across Germany with forecasting winds greater than or equal to 52 miles per hour.

Base exchange patrons fight strong winds during lunch hour Thursday at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The 21st Operational Weather Squadron released a severe-weather warning across Germany with forecasting winds greater than or equal to 52 miles per hour. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

Base exchange patrons fight strong winds during lunch hour Thursday at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The 21st Operational Weather Squadron released a severe-weather warning across Germany with forecasting winds greater than or equal to 52 miles per hour.

Base exchange patrons fight strong winds during lunch hour Thursday at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The 21st Operational Weather Squadron released a severe-weather warning across Germany with forecasting winds greater than or equal to 52 miles per hour. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

A commissary patron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, fights the strong winds by her car Thursday. The 21st Operational Weather Squadron released a severe weather warning across Germany with forecasting winds greater than or equal to 52 miles per hour.

A commissary patron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, fights the strong winds by her car Thursday. The 21st Operational Weather Squadron released a severe weather warning across Germany with forecasting winds greater than or equal to 52 miles per hour. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

RAF MILDENHALL, England – A winter storm packing strong winds and heavy rains swept across northern Europe Thursday, causing widespread damage at RAF Mildenhall, disrupting U.S. military operations and forcing the early closure of some military schools.

An Air Force forecaster at Sembach Air Base, Germany, said wind gusts reached up to 50 mph in Germany, prompting Department of Defense Dependents Schools officials to dismiss students early from several schools.

Staff Sgt. Jonathan White, forecaster with the 21st Operational Weather Squadron at Sembach, said the wind and rain were expected to continue through Friday, but diminish later in the day.

U.S. Air Force fighter wings in England and Germany halted flights Thursday and wind ripped swaths of metal roofing from several structures on RAF Mildenhall, base spokesmen said.

Strong gusts raged across the low flatlands of the East of England, shutting down flight operations at RAF Lakenheath, home to the 48th Fighter Wing. The fierce winds downed trees across the region and caused traffic delays throughout the day, according to the Suffolk Constabulary.

The BBC reported the winds had caused minor disruptions at some United Kingdom airports and that ferry crossings between the south of the country and Europe had been disrupted. Thousands were left without power nationwide, the BBC reported.

In Germany, safety concerns prompted by similar strong wind led to canceled operations at Spangdahlem Air Base, home to the 52nd Fighter Wing, according to a base spokeswoman. Road conditions near the base were declared hazardous and base personnel were sent home early, base officials said.

Frankfurt International Airport had canceled 112 flights by Thursday afternoon, and many flights were delayed, an airport official said.

Operations were not affected at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

Schools in the American military communities of Würzburg, Hohenfels, Garmisch and Schweinfurt, Germany, closed early, said DODDS-Europe spokesman Dennis Bohannon. Some schools closed as early as midmorning on Thursday.

After-school activities were also canceled in some districts, he said.

U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt spokesman George Ohl said Thursday afternoon that the last shuttle between the Würzburg and Schweinfurt American military communities was at 1 p.m., and that shuttles had been canceled for the rest of the day.

Thursday’s high winds marked the third time in the past several weeks that weather has affected flights at U.S. Air Force installations in England. High winds disrupted flights on Jan. 11 and thick fog decreased visibility and hampered operations on Dec. 21, 2006.

Reporter Geoff Ziezulewicz contributed to this report.


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