Currently, Europe is parted into two. A line is drawn from north to south from Finland to Italy. While the regions east of the line are ruled by heat, the western half is suffering from cold.
Hot air can carry more moisture than cold air. So, the moisture comes down as rain in the area where both air masses are meeting. In addition, the high-pressure area and the low-pressure area are very stable and don’t move. Instead, the rain comes down over and over again for days in nearly the same place: in western North-Rhine Westphalia and north-west Rhineland-Palatinate, two German states near the borders to Belgium and the southern Netherlands.
After a nice start into summer end of May, the weather changed by early June. It became colder and the rain began to fall. End of June, the first extreme rain appeared here in the region. A friend of mine reported an overflooded underground car park in his newly built apartment building. Fortunately, they were able to save all cars ahead of the flooding.
Because of the constant and sometimes havier rainfalls, the lakes, rivers, and creeks were already full and the ground was already saturated with water.
Tuesday last week, the weather forecast announced another heavy rain field. For about 120-150 km long and 30-50 km wide. You can see the size in the left map below. Btw. I’m located right in the middle of the pink area. Find Düsseldorf, our state capitol, and take the letter ‘o’. Now, move up and see the horseshoe-like bend of the river Ruhr. I’m near the right side inside the area. The color indicates the amount of rain in mm per 24 hours. Up to 200 liters of water were have been falling per square meter, but no-one said to the people move their valuable belongings to higher places or even leave the area completely. The situation was recognized early enough to warn. Warnings were even sent out, but the people didn’t understand the warnings.
You can find these maps, created by Deutscher Wetter Dienst (DWD), in their official Twitter account. DWD is the official German Meteorological Service.
The next images are not mine. I got them via Facebook. It’s a city quarter of a neighboring town. This place is only about 15 km east of us as the bird flies after only a few hours of rain. The stones are the result of a landslide. It looks bad, but other areas west of us were hit even harder. You can find an article on Wikipedia with a couple of images and containing also descriptions from other affected regions.
The area west of Bonn was hit the hardest. A few smaller towns and city quarters are literally wiped away. Either, because rivers re-conquered stolen land (people built houses in riparian areas or water meadows) or by landslides when the soaked soil slipped down the hillsides. In the town of Erftstadt, we had to watch another phenomenon: in the flat area, the river Erft left the bed and flooded the fields used by farmers to grow food. Unfortunately, the ground wasn’t stable. So, the soil was washed away and left a huge and rising crate, several meters deep. This crate swallowed even complete houses while widening. The only image I found online showing this, is the header photo in this article:
Among very few hours, creeks with usually one 30cm of water were able to grow up to several meters of water. One river with usually 60cm was reported to grow up 8 meters!!!! Despite this vast amount of water, about 24 hours later nearly all of the water was gone. Only the devastation remained. Many, many people lost everything, including their houses. About 172 are reported up to now even lost their lives here in Germany and 31 in Belgium. While 155 people in Germany are still missed. Yesterday evening the last alarms were deactivated. All the danger points are secured. Fortunately, there was no additional rain. But, many parts in the affected area still don’t have electric power, telephone, water supply, and cellular mobile telephony. Reconstruction works will last months and I guess, some people, having lost everything, will move away.
The railway company announced 600km of railways were destroyed (7 tracks) and 80 stations. No-one knows up to now how many streets and motorways are damaged or completely destroys. Not counting the pipes for water and natural gas, the wires for telephony, internet, and electric power, or the animals (wild and farm animals).
The most affected area also includes an important wine-producing area and vacation spots.
The town, where I live, wasn’t affected. First, we don’t have a river or a lake (not in town nor uphill). Second, The hills are covered with houses. So, the soil couldn’t slip away. Third, some years ago, our city government enlarged the canalization system. Luckily, it was big enough to cope with all the additional water.
I didn’t write anything about Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxemburg, and France. I’m not ignoring them. The reason is, our news didn’t broadcast much about their suffering from the flooding. So, I simply don’t know enough to write about. I only know, the Belgium area bordering the hardest hit German area was also hit very hard. I suspect the people are facing the same problems as they do here.
This last weekend. Germany was hit again: in Bavaria and Saxonia further floodings happened with similar effects as I already described.
I’m so glad for not being affected and feel very sorry for all the affected people wherever they lived. Although this isn’t the first flooding in Germany, it’s IMHO the biggest and the first (?) one in our state. I assume it won’t be the last one.
I just got the forecast for the next thunderstorm to be arriving this weekend, which is expected to hit the already pained region again. 😭