Flash floods in Europe

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Flash floods in Europe

Central Europe affected by heavy rains and flooding in May and June.

Germany, France and neighbouring countries were affected by storms and heavy rainfall in May and June. Devastating flash floods and extensive flooding resulted. One particularly notable aspect of the floods was the general weather pattern controlling the event, which brought no respite from the bad weather for weeks.

From the end of May on, southern and central Germany experienced severe thunderstorms, hail and lightning strikes. Since the thunderstorms remained largely stationary, areas of just a few square kilometres had to absorb the entire precipitation. This led to severe damage from sudden flash floods and landslides that are virtually impossible to predict. Several villages were largely destroyed by raging torrents, and industrial production was temporarily stopped. In the town of Simbach in Bavaria, the stream of the same name damaged around 5,000 homes after rising from a level of 0.5 metres to 4.8 metres within a very short space of time. In some locations, daily precipitation rates were measured that, statistically speaking, should only occur every 200 years.

At almost the same time, storms in France and the Benelux region led to floods, initially in smaller rivers, and later in the rivers Loire and Seine. In these instances, people at least had a certain amount of advance notice thanks to early warning systems. Thousands of people were evacuated in a region to the southwest of Paris. In Paris itself, works of art in the biggest museums had to be moved to higher floors for safety.

After that, central Europe, and particularly Germany, witnessed repeated cases of localised damage from severe thunderstorms during the first ten days of June.

The floods in central Europe stemmed from an unusual general weather pattern that persisted for an exceptionally long time, from 27 May to 9 June. One of its special features was that the jet stream (the fast-flowing, high-altitude air current) formed a large arc over Europe in a shape similar to a capital omega in the Greek alphabet. It is typical for weather patterns of this sort to persist for a long time because they block the usual west-to-east weather flow.


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