North Sea flood of 1962
Overview
The North Sea flood of 1962 was a natural disaster
Natural disaster
A natural disaster is the effect of a natural hazard . It leads to financial, environmental or human losses...

 affecting mainly the coastal regions of Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and in particular the city of Hamburg
Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 in the night from 16 February to 17 February 1962. In total, the homes of about 60,000 people were destroyed, and the death toll amounted to 315 in Hamburg.
The flood was caused by the Vincinette low-pressure system, approaching the German Bight from the southern Polar Sea.
Encyclopedia
The North Sea flood of 1962 was a natural disaster
Natural disaster
A natural disaster is the effect of a natural hazard . It leads to financial, environmental or human losses...

 affecting mainly the coastal regions of Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 and in particular the city of Hamburg
Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

 in the night from 16 February to 17 February 1962. In total, the homes of about 60,000 people were destroyed, and the death toll amounted to 315 in Hamburg.

Causes

The flood was caused by the Vincinette low-pressure system, approaching the German Bight from the southern Polar Sea. A European windstorm
European windstorm
A European windstorm is a severe cyclonic windstorm associated with areas of low atmospheric pressure that track across the North Atlantic towards northwestern Europe. They are most common in the winter months...

 with peak wind speeds of 200 km/h pushed water into the German Bight
German Bight
German Bight is the southeastern bight of the North Sea bounded by the Netherlands and Germany to the south, and Denmark and Germany to the east . To the north and west it is limited by the Dogger Bank. The Bight contains the Frisian and Danish Islands. The Wadden Sea is approximately ten to...

, leading to a water surge the dykes could not withstand. Breaches along the coast and the rivers Elbe
Elbe
The Elbe is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Krkonoše Mountains of the northwestern Czech Republic before traversing much of Bohemia , then Germany and flowing into the North Sea at Cuxhaven, 110 km northwest of Hamburg...

 and Weser led to widespread flooding of huge areas. In Hamburg, on the river Elbe, but a full 100 km away from the coast, the residential area of Wilhelmsburg was most affected.

Events

On Thursday 15 February, German authorities published the first storm warning for the North Sea with wind speeds up to 9 Beaufort.
A severe storm warning followed the next day, with a predicted gauge of 3 Metres above normal, which was a level the dykes could withstand.

The severe storm and the flood it caused in the last hours of 16 February affected the dykes more than predicted and led to some 50 breaches before officials raised alarm for Hamburg.
At this time of the day, most city offices were closed, which retarded the notification of the population. Civil protection plans were not implemented yet.

Due to telephone landline breakups, warnings could not be forwarded from coastal to hinterland emergency offices. Breakups at alarm siren lines and electricity lines had severe affectations to the warning system. Radio amateurs had to establish emergency operations to support emergency services in means of communication.

Around midnight, the peaks were too high for some dykes to withstand. The back of the dykes was not yet fortified, so the first waters destroyed the dykes from behind and cleared the way for the flood.

Helmut Schmidt
Helmut Schmidt
Helmut Heinrich Waldemar Schmidt is a German Social Democratic politician who served as Chancellor of West Germany from 1974 to 1982. Prior to becoming chancellor, he had served as Minister of Defence and Minister of Finance. He had also served briefly as Minister of Economics and as acting...

, police senator of Hamburg, coordinated the rescue operations, and requested for emergency help throughout Europe. He requested parts of the Bundeswehr
Bundeswehr
The Bundeswehr consists of the unified armed forces of Germany and their civil administration and procurement authorities...

 for emergency purposes, especially engineers. That meant overstepping his legal authority, ignoring the German constitution's prohibition on using the army for "internal affairs" - a clause excluding disasters was not added until 1968. Also he got help by helicopters from other NATO states. The latter were called Fliegende Engel (Flying Angels) by the people.

120 square kilometres or a mere sixth of the city of Hamburg were flooded, destroying 6000 buildings. Streets were unusable and railway operation was suspended, leaving Hamburg unsupplied for an indetermined period of time.

Aftermath

Afterwards, emergency plans were implemented, and dykes were shortened and strengthened, leaving some river arms and bays unattached from the sea.

Further reading

  • Lamb, H.H. and Frydendahl, Knud (1991). Historic Storms of the North Sea, British Isles and Northwest Europe. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521375221
  • Uwe Sönnichsen / Hans-Werner Staritz: Trutz, blanke Hans – Bilddokumentation der Flutkatastrophen 1962 und 1976 in Schleswig-Holstein und Hamburg, ISBN 3-88042-055-6 (in German)
  • Alexander Schuller: "Sturmflut über Hamburg. Die Nacht, in der eine Stadt ertrank – Ein Tatsachenroman", ISBN 3-453-40148-4
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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