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Surprising Storm Surge in Germany

October 26, 2023 | Created by: Andreas Klippe | Comments

Dr. Flood explains the storm surge in the Baltic sea.

1. Which areas on the Baltic Sea coast are particularly affected by storm surges?

Since there are no high and low tides on the Baltic Sea, instead of “storm surge” it should read “storm high tide”.

In the reports, the areas Flensburg Fjord, Kiel Bay, Lübeck Bay were highlighted. As has now been seen, almost the entire Baltic coast of Germany was affected. The water penetrated unprotected buildings and washed through cars.

I predict it will get much worse. Today it was the Baltic Sea, tomorrow it will be the North Sea, and the day after tomorrow it will be rivers that cause flooding. But the good news is: we can protect ourselves.

2. What precautions should you take to protect your home from storm surge?

I always say, “We need to worry about flood damage prevention, not damage repair after a flood event.” 

You can now close every opening in a building with flood barriers. These include doors, windows, light wells, basement entrances and sewer connections that can be equipped with check valves to prevent backflow from the sewer into the building. 

The workplace as well as the private home can be protected in this way, as well as the garage with the car and bicycles for the children as well as the kindergarten and school. We have recently flood-protected 5 elementary schools in the Philippines. In the future, the children there will no longer have to miss school due to floods.

3. Are there early warning systems for storm surges that you should watch out for?

My tip is very clear: Listen to the weather experts. Our meteorologists are excellent. We didn’t have the capabilities that today’s computer simulations offer. Now the weather can be calculated pretty accurately about a week in advance. 

In addition, there are regional early warning systems. People on the coast are also used to flood events. Although this time it was different. Some regions experienced floods like none since weather records began in 1881.

There are now also one or two disaster warning apps. One of the leading insurance companies in Germany has something like that in use. I myself get storm warnings displayed there. Saying to stay at home won’t stop heavy rain and floods from flooding my living room or garage, though.

4. What is the best way to prepare yourself personally if you live in a vulnerable area?

The sandbags that are often mentioned are not helpful at all. In fact, I think it’s harmful to try to convince people to get protection that way. So away with them.

For flood protection systems for buildings and critical infrastructure, I distinguish between four groups: 1. portable barriers, such as demountable flood barriers or mobile barriers; 2. flood protection doors or gates; 3. automatic systems; 4. flood protection glass walls.

However, it is important to also consider the buildings and the nature of the foundation. It is no use having the best flood barriers if the building wall is not solid, the foundation is uneven or the concrete is crumbling. 

My most important tip to all building owners: make sure to use only tested and proven established flood protection systems. Otherwise, the cheap product “from around the corner” could turn out to be a very expensive investment down the road if it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to: keep the water off your building.

5. What measures should be taken to evacuate safely during a storm surge?

Evacuation sites must be safe from high water and heavy rain. This is sometimes forgotten. Such places should have enough space for people. Emergency toilets are also welcome.

Every citizen should be responsible for their own food. I can already expect to provide oneself with water, food and medicine, as well as toys for the children. Everyone does that when they go on vacation or plan a barbecue weekend. And there’s always plenty to drink. 

As soon as the weather forecast announces a bad weather day, everyone should have a backpack, travel bag and appropriate clothing ready just in case. 

And in case the evacuation takes a little longer: think of candles, batteries, a radio and games, or a small musical instrument. A ukulele, flute or harmonica will keep you in a good mood while it’s thundering and storming outside.

And don’t forget: you’re only a flood barrier away….

If you’re interested in learning about effective flood protection strategies, be sure to tune in to my podcast titled “The Flood Protection Secrets.” I’ll be sharing valuable tips and guidelines to help you safeguard against floods.