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In February we had a few storms with storm surges in Hamburg. Now, that is not so unusual, but the strength of the storms and storm surges, their accumulation in combination with the date were quite remarkable.
In the night of the 16th to the 17th of February, the first orkan was predicted. In connection with this, the Elbe burst its banks both times during rising water – especially during the evening flood that was not too scarce.
For those who do not know: The Elbe is a river, but we have tides here that bring high and low tides twice a day. During a normal high tide, the water level can be up to 2.0 metres above sea level. Anything above that is high water, and if a storm comes along and pushes the water from the North Sea into the Elbe estuary, it can sometimes turn into a storm surge.
In the night of the 16th to the 17th of February 1962 there was also such a storm surge, with devastating consequences. At that time, the dikes in Hamburg broke in over 60 places. This was particularly devastating for the residents on the southern bank of the Elbe, because everything there is at a fairly low topographical level. Here, on the north side, everything is a few metres higher.
Now it was another night from the 16th to the 17th of February, exactly 60 years later. The orkan was one of the worst we have experienced so far and the expected maximum water level was not exactly encouraging either. It was reassuring that the dikes are now much higher and safer and that many other effective measures have been taken to protect the city. These have also worked. Nevertheless, on both occasions the water overflowed the banks of the Elbe in the course of a storm surge that day.
Two days later, from 18th to 19th of February, came the next orkan. This one was even more powerful than the previous one. Again, the water overflowed the banks both times with a storm surge – this time it even ran over the protective wall into the front garden in front of the terrace of some houses in Blankenese. You do not see that very often there either. In the night from the 20th to the 21st of February, there was another heavy storm, again with a storm surge and there was another storm surge forecast on the 21st of February as well.
Here in the north, they say there is a storm only when the sheep have no more curls. This has given us the reputation of being quite calm about such weather situations. This is true, because you learn to live with Nature.
However, I have noticed that more and more people stand at the fish market during a storm surge and film (to be seen on social media) or go out during an orkan and shoot funny videos. This is then usually accompanied by slogans similar to the one above. In the course of time I noticed, by the way, that these often seem to be people who have moved here and did not grow up in the North, but maybe that is deceptive.
Regardless of whether my observation is correct or not, I would like to point out here that storm surges and orkans are not playgrounds. Not even with all the North German composure. Serenity does not promote itself either. It also means knowing when it is healthy to stick your nose into the wind and when it is better to put a kettle of tea on the stove. The best way to learn this is to observe and follow the example of long-time residents. If they do not go out, it is best not to go out yourself. Asking questions and listening do not hurt either. This is not about being cool, it is about dealing with the forces of Nature. These are inherently unpredictable and we can only venture our best estimate with reference to all the information available to us. Sometimes there is more and sometimes less of it.
How do I know that?
My father was a sailor, and it was exactly the same there. When I went along as a child, I also watched what the old sea dogs did. This is how I learnt how to behave out in the mudflats, too – where I would never go out on my own, for example, because I know far too little about where mudholes, tideways or other hazards are lurking. In the same way, I would not go hiking in the mountains just like that.
I have lived in Hamburg and the surrounding area all my life and am by no means an expert. But there are a few things I can say with certainty and am passing on here now:
When a storm surge is forecast, you remove yourself and your vehicle from the area that is expected to be flooded. You do not stop at the fish market to film the water rising. You also do not wade through the flood water unless you absolutely have to. That is dangerous. For one thing, you do not know what the water is carrying; for another, manhole covers may have been washed away, but you cannot see this under all the water. If you step into a hole like that, you can easily drown. At the latest, when you hear the sirens and warning firecrackers, it is time to retreat very quickly from the area in question. However, it is best not to wait that long in the first place.
If a severe storm or orkan is forecast, heed the warnings of the German Weather Service. They actually have calculated the wind force at which the sheep will generally no longer have any curls. Secure objects around the house or on the balcony accordingly and then go to a safe place – INSIDE. If possible, stay there until the storm or orkan has passed. You also keep windows and doors closed for this time. You do not go outside to shoot funny videos. And you stay away from avenues, tree-lined parks and forests – even for several days afterwards, until the forestry office gives the all-clear.
Last year, during a not so bad storm, a branch came down from the aspen-tree behind our house, right next to a parked car. It was big enough to could have caused serious damage. Just as a small example.
If, for some reason, you find yourself outside in the danger zone during a storm surge or storm and think you have room to quickly shoot a funny video, please think again, because you are obviously misjudging the situation completely. All available senses and forces must be used to bring yourself and possibly others affected to safety as quickly as possible.
If you want to do this with North German composure, it is best to leave out all the hullabaloo anyway, keep calm and keep a cool head, focus on the task at hand without a lot of fuss and get it done without further ado. THAT is North German composure. And if you want to keep it really North German, you calmly put on a cup of tea as soon as you have a safe roof over your head.
Well, I just wanted to make that clear.
What do you have to watch out for in your area when dealing with the forces of Nature?
Are you ready to shine a bright light of awareness on the path of beingness, today?
Much Love, Steffi
I think YouTube and TikTok have a lot to do with people going out in unsafe conditions. 😔
The conditions we have to watch out for are similar to your own. When we lived up north (on the Aberdeenshire coast), we had to be very mindful of the seawalls coming down/being swept away. In the Glasgow area, we need to be aware of trees and unsecured garden items etc., with high winds.
As much as social networks can connect people in a great way, this is a downside – people wanting to be cool and baiting for clicks by promoting dangerous behaviour. Even on Twitter I stumbled upon such footage within my own timeline – and I spoke up to it, as well. Also, during such weather conditions firebrigade and ambulance are already busy enough with the stuff that happens without folks adding to it.
I believe you are right, Glasgow and Hamburg seem to be exposed to similar weather conditions. Here, only the river is special. In fact I just heard of an online accquaintance who is going to move away from its shore to safer grounds, this Summer, as the floods have been getting more challenging over the years.
At the coast of Aberdeenshire you probably were facing even more dangerous conditions than we do, here. Those seawalls are pretty scary!
I’ve gotten to the point that I’m no longer shocked at the lengths some will do for digital validation. And, yes, you’re totally right about the wasting of emergency services during bad weather etc.
In Aberdeenshire, we were high enough up that we didn’t get affected by the sea–the rain was a different matter 😬–only when we went to the bottom of the village did we have to really watch ourselves.
There are always some eejits out there who think they have to prove something in a stupid way. But when it shows up in my direct surroundings (or timeline), I won’t stay silent. (Might be that thing with having my voice back and all…)
Rain from above and sea water from below – definitely sounds like a good plan to put the kettle on and have some tea until the storm is over. After all, there are less exciting ways to get a shower. ☕
Good on you for flexing your voice muscle!
I must admit, I do miss the storms up there. It was always nice to get the fire on and listen to the wind howling–I’ll just erase the memory of the constant fear that the slates or the whole roof were going to fly off 😬🤪
Oh, I do miss the fireplaces around the Isles…!
However, having spent the night after my wedding in a little wooden cabin in Denmark while European windstorm Xaver was about to transport us to the land of Oz, I cannot quite erase the memory of that fear. Maybe if the cabin would have had a fireplace… 🤭
One thing’s for sure, you’ll never forget your honeymoon!
Nope. Nor the very special guest Xaver.
Well, I like to make memories. 😂
Those storms were everywhere. We had it here rather bad too. It was quite scary. There are enough stupid people out there who need to film it and get themselves in danger- uncomprehendable. We had once a storm here and bg branch of a tree opposite the road, fell right onto a car and hte car was a write off. When the storms came I moved my car to a treefree space.:-)
I can imagine it is a lot stormier in the North and by the sea. So I wouldn’t venture out.
Yes, the storms where all over the place. I am glad you made it through safely, dear Ute, just as we did.
It was a very wise choice to move your car to a treefree space. We have both seen what can happen if one doesn’t.
These were the worst storms I have experienced since my wedding in 2013 (our wedding guest was Orkan Xaver while we stayed in a tiny wooden cabin in Denmark – speaking about the North by the sea). I’ve always had respect for the forces of Nature, but that night has sensitised me even more.
Alles klar !!