Skip to content

The real reason for Germany’s flood disaster: A ‘monumental failure of the warning system’

July 18, 2021

By Paul Homewood

 image

The first signs of catastrophe were detected nine days ago by a satellite orbiting 500 miles above the tranquil hills around the Rhine river.

Over the next few days a team of scientists sent the German authorities a series of forecasts so accurate that they now read like a macabre prophecy: the Rhineland was about to be hit by “extreme” flooding, particularly along the Erft and Ahr rivers, and in towns such as Hagen and Altena.

Yet despite at least 24 hours’ warning that predicted, almost precisely, which districts would be worst afflicted when the rains came, the flood still caught many of its victims largely unawares.

 

A destroyed house in Altenahr, Germany. There is suggestion that the government was under-prepared for the disaster

A destroyed house in Altenahr, Germany. There is suggestion that the government was under-prepared for the disasterLINO MIRGELER/DPA/AP

Germany got its preparations “badly wrong”, one of the experts who built Europe’s sophisticated flood prediction model told The Sunday Times. Hannah Cloke, professor of hydrology at Reading University, said that a “monumental failure of the system” had led to one of postwar Germany’s deadliest natural disasters, which had by last night claimed at least 133 lives since Wednesday and left hundreds of people unaccounted for. At least another 24 people were dead across the border in Belgium, a figure that the country’s national crisis centre expected to rise, while the rains forced thousands from their homes in the Netherlands.

On Tuesday and Wednesday parts of Germany were deluged with more than a month’s worth of rain in 48 hours. Some tributaries of the Rhine swelled to record levels, turning cities into lakes of mud, sweeping away buildings and bridges, and drowning dozens of people in their homes.

“When I woke up [on Thursday] morning and saw how many people had died, I just thought: you can do better than this,” said Cloke. “I’m disappointed that particularly in the cities you had people washed away. That suggests that lots of things are going badly wrong.

“People should have been receiving warnings; people should have understood the warnings. It’s no use having massive computer models predicting what’s going to happen if people don’t know what to do in a flood.”

Instead, the overwhelming majority of people in the path of the floods carried on with their everyday lives, oblivious to the danger, as the waters began to rise.

The German government is now facing questions about how many lives might have been saved had it evacuated the danger zones in time and properly conveyed the gravity of the impending crisis to the public. As Bild, the country’s bestselling newspaper, put it: “Did our disaster protection agency fail?” […]

In the early 2000s Cloke and two of her colleagues designed the European Flood Awareness System (Efas) with a disaster such as this in mind. After the cataclysmic floods across central and eastern Europe in 2002, which claimed at least 110 lives in nine countries, they resolved that, next time, the victims had to be forearmed. “Given the number of deaths and the amount of damage, we had the idea that we should never allow this to happen again,” Cloke said.

The algorithms combine observations from the European Union’s Copernicus satellites with hydrographical records and readings of river levels in order to give national agencies up to ten days to prepare for the worst.

In 2014 alerts and maps from Efas allowed the authorities in Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia to fine-tune their response to colossal flooding in the Balkans. This time, however, Efas found itself playing the role of Cassandra.

It raised the alarm on July 10 — four days before the first floods — with warnings to the German and Belgian governments about the high risk of flooding in the Rhine and Meuse basins.

Over the next few days it produced minutely detailed charts correctly predicting most of the areas that would suffer the heaviest damage. Its German partner agency requested specific analysis of several rivers including the Ahr, along whose banks at least 93 people later died and 618 were injured.

Cloke said that some of the flash flooding would have been tricky to forecast in detail but there was “certainly time” to prepare larger towns and cities with warnings or evacuations. […]

“The fact that people didn’t evacuate or get the warnings suggests that something is going wrong,” Cloke said. “If you’ve got some information about what risk you’re at and you can understand it, you can take action to protect yourself. These floods were huge. Probably they were like a fantasy or a kind of science-fiction movie for people.”

One underlying problem is the parlous state of Germany’s alarm systems. Last September the BBK held a national “warning day”, when people across the country were supposed to be simultaneously deafened by sirens and inundated with alert messages in a simulated natural disaster. It was a debacle: most of the technology didn’t work.

Full story (£) 

 

As is often the case with this sort of devastating flooding, the crucial factor was that the weather systems got stuck in one place.

There appears to be a distinct lack of information available as to the amounts of rain that actually fell. The only reference I can find is from The Weather Channel:

image

https://weather.com/news/news/2021-07-15-europe-flooding-belgium-germany-rain?cm_ven=hp-slot-4

  

    

Although this was extreme, such amounts are not unusual:

 

image

https://www.wunderground.com/blog/weatherhistorian/national-24hour-precipitation-records.html

And though rare, such destructive floods have occurred in the past in Germany, such as in 1501, 1784 and 1845:

image

https://second.wiki/wiki/hochwasser_in_mitteleuropa_1501#Elbhochwasser_Juli/August_1501

.

In my view, the authorities in Germany have been spending too much time playing as climate activists, and not enough doing their proper job.

 

 

UPDATE

This post originally incorrectly included a Weather Underground report of floods in July 2014.

UPDATE II

No Tricks Zone also reveals how German authorities dangerously allowed dams to remain full, despite plenty of warnings of wet weather. Now, to hide their guilt, they are attempting to deflect attention away by blaming climate change.

image

https://notrickszone.com/2021/07/18/germanys-katrina-officials-left-dams-full-for-weeks-even-with-heavy-rains-in-the-forecast/

39 Comments
  1. July 18, 2021 10:55 am

    Congratulations to the Sunday Times for finding one of the few people who knows what they’re talking about to interview. And at Reading University. On BBC World and Sky News, in the Guardian and in the French media it’s been Greenpeace activists, ex-Ministers of Ecology and know-nothing (environ)mental journalists all the way down. And an extraordinary lack of visible compassion, when compared to the reporting of other disasters, as if “I told you so” and “serves you right” were lurking somewhere in their back brains. More minimum maundering at

    Up to Your Graun in Flood and Bullet Points

    • Robert Christopher permalink
      July 18, 2021 1:03 pm

      One does wonder what distracted those who should have been alert to the weather. It is what they were paid to do.

      • July 18, 2021 3:22 pm

        Maybe they can be sued for negligence.

  2. Jack Broughton permalink
    July 18, 2021 11:05 am

    The media damage is done, they have increased popular alarm about “climate change doom”. The revisions in the light of history will make small columns, if mentioned at all.
    It is amusing how quickly the climate lobby got onto it then left it when the truth became apparent.

  3. July 18, 2021 11:11 am

    Those of us who have visited central Europe will have been struck by the numerous flood records marked on the walls of Churches and monasteries. The region has always been prone to epic floods, unfortunately, much like the UK, people like living next to rivers and this results in huge amounts of building on the flood plain.

    Lets hope the death toll can be minimised and the authorities would do well to examine the many historic flooding records that exist , take appropriate measures and also refuse building on flood plains.

  4. theolderguvnor permalink
    July 18, 2021 11:21 am

    An article here from Dr R North which backs this up:
    http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=88037
    Of particular note is his parting paragraph:
    ‘Recalling that we are at the tail end of a period of interglacial warming, when global temperatures might be expected to rise (prior to plunging rapidly into a new ice age). One doesn’t have to buy in to the anthropogenic global warming religion to accept that we should be reasonably prepared for what nature has to throw at us.’

  5. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    July 18, 2021 11:25 am

    Monumental planning failure. Just build on everything and then get surprised when Mother Nature calls.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      July 18, 2021 1:22 pm

      Yes, the deep irrationality of the doom peddlers.

      For millions of years the earth remodeled it’s surface relentlessly, used the entire surface for ocean, flood, deposition, erosion…. then man comes along, plonks some ‘permanent’ infrastructure down, and expects nature to just stop doing its thing.

  6. July 18, 2021 12:10 pm

    What was the impact of “Global Warming” on this event. The best of a bad lot of responses given in the MSM is that warmer air *can* hold more moisture, but it will only do so if an ocean feeds it with more evaporation. My impression is that the North Atlantic Ocean has not been particularly warm this summer, evaporation might be lower than average.

    A warmer climate should be similar to a more southerly climate. Ignore the fact that going South from Germany gets you to the Mediterranean, not exactly known for its horrible climate. Are there any places a bit further South from where you live that are very prone to catastrophic flooding? Me neither.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      July 18, 2021 1:14 pm

      Yes they deliberately quote an obvious rule of physics that suits the warming narrative, whilst everyone knows what generates severe storms/rainfall is temperature contrast – which is what we had in Europe – teens over Iberia/W. Europe, 30s central and North.

      Stalled storm systems over Europe and prodigious amounts of rain are not a new/climate change thing, they have always happened.

      Germany had plenty of warning, the floods could not be stopped but a lot of the lives could have been saved.

      Having to bulldoze and rebuild after floods is not an entirely new experience for Germany.

      • Matt Dalby permalink
        July 18, 2021 8:16 pm

        The temperature anomalies for Western Germany last week were up to 5 degrees below average, therefore claims about warmer air holding more moisture, even if strictly true, can’t be used to explain these floods.
        The most important factor was surely the fact that weather systems got stuck in the same place for an extended period of time due to a weak meridional jet stream. This is basically the same explanation for the record heat in the Pacific Northwest. I’m not sure how global warming, natural or manmade, can explain this change in the jet stream. The only other explanation is a decrease in solar activity which is currently ocourring and is predicted by a lot of solar scientists to continue for at least another 20 years. The other massive floods that are mentioned above also ocourred during periods of low solar activity, and hence a weakened meridional jet stream e.g. the Maunder and Dalton minimums.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        July 18, 2021 10:20 pm

        The storms formed at the interaction of the cold and hot air masses in Europe – over Germany essentially – as the hotter air pushed in. That typically results in slow moving storms as the hot air rises over and struggles to push the cold air out the way.

  7. richardw permalink
    July 18, 2021 1:10 pm

    I can’t find anywhere on this site to post general suggestions so am posting here.

    Nigel Farage is joining GB News and is asking for opinions on what he should cover. I suggest readers here might like to make contact with their thoughts – here is the link to the announcement: https://youtu.be/8L1AvjH8Zhk

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      July 18, 2021 1:24 pm

      There may have been a time, but I think if you are hoping he might push back hard against the climate change bandwagon these days, you are on to a loser.

      • theturquoiseowl permalink
        July 18, 2021 1:57 pm

        The cost to ride the bandwagon has to start registering soon – so would be a shame to give up now.

      • richardw permalink
        July 19, 2021 1:54 pm

        It strikes me that we are better able to defeat ourselves that are those who disagree with us. It’s only posting a message for goodness’ sake.

  8. Tim Spence permalink
    July 18, 2021 2:11 pm

    I read somewhere it was a once in 200 year flood and I got to thinking they’ve had two centuries to prepare for this eventuality.

    Then I watched my news and they had to trot out the daily covid deaths before they got onto the floods. That’s strange bearing in mind they earn cash every time they wedge ‘climate change’ into the reports of extreme weather.

  9. Dodgy Geezer permalink
    July 18, 2021 2:17 pm

    NO-ONE believes any environmental warnings any more. Even the people who stoke them up.

    Aesop wrote about the drastic consequences of crying ‘Wolf!’ when there is not one there. ..

    • dearieme permalink
      July 18, 2021 3:05 pm

      Precisely, DG. Spot on. Just like many of the predictions about Covid from the Astrologer Royal and his myrmidons – if they ever get one right it will be purely by chance.

  10. Bassline permalink
    July 18, 2021 2:28 pm

    The weather underground article seems to be about July 2014 ??

    • July 18, 2021 6:27 pm

      Thanks

      I had not spotted that, though the historical table is useful.

      I’ll update later

  11. July 18, 2021 2:31 pm

    Reblogged this on delboydave and commented:
    I find it incredible that with so many government’s swallowing the ‘climate emergency’ mantra, and have happily swallowed the false data used to promote this agenda which is going to cost the consumer billions. However, when a group of eminent and respected scientists warn of an impending disaster they close their ears and eyes and just stand there transfixed like a rabbit in the headlights! It would seem that no country is free of political incompetence.

  12. Bassline permalink
    July 18, 2021 3:37 pm

    The Weather Underground article seems to talk about July 2014 ??

  13. July 18, 2021 4:28 pm

    One has to be careful drawing conclusions about changes in the frequency of severe flooding, the “globally warmed” period is only around 30 years from around 1990, the date of the Great Climate Shift, hence it is natural that there will have been many more such events in the previous (say) 200 years.

    There is not enough data to be able to draw any conclusions about changes in frequency, come back in around 100 years time.

  14. Adamsson permalink
    July 18, 2021 6:04 pm

    Sorry I do not believe this was a failure of the warning system or a lack of preparation but a deliberate decision not to act by the government in order to use the flooding to push their global warming story.
    Did they know how many people would die? Did they care?
    Or did know that if people died it would help the cause?

    • Tim Spence permalink
      July 18, 2021 9:06 pm

      Adamsson, I’m with you on that. Clearly they were stoking the climate change angle but so far the government seems strangely distanced from that, awaiting the right moment.

  15. Patriot permalink
    July 18, 2021 7:17 pm

    With the Covid hoax falling apart, the NWO are going to fall back on their previous plan of climate hoax to continue their push for one world government, and eventual communism
    Im sure you will hear more calls for people to pay more taxes to ‘save the environment’.
    The flawed logic of paying more taxes to appease weather gods is no more absurd than sacrificing virgins to the volcano gods
    Its all part of the great reset, new normal, build back better
    They keep saying it, start believing them

    HAARP – google it

    https://amg-news.com/archives/3437
    https://www.wanttoknow.info/war/haarp_weather_modification_electromagnetic_warfare_weapons

  16. David Wild permalink
    July 18, 2021 9:30 pm

    All consistent with events in the West Country over a 70 year span.

    1952 Lynton and Lynmouth.
    6in of intense rain, Part of Lynmouth destroyed
    34 died

    1968 July Mendips
    7.69 in of rain in 36 hours
    7 died. Property including bridges and a railway viaduct destroyed
    Cheddar Gorge cave filled with 9ft of mud

    2004 Boscastle
    200mm (7.9in) of rain in 24 hours Met Office “worst since records began in 1920”
    No loss of life – Navy and RAF helicopters on scene quickly

    2013/14 Somerset Levels
    Huge floods, farm destruction, no loss of life

    The consistent themes are:
    neglect or Green policies leading to very poor maintenance of waterways
    a rain weather system sits over the area for several weeks and finishes off with a prolonged and intense downpour

    Pretty much the same as in Germany

    Had these happened now, AGW would have been the culprit
    Then, the “experts” were forecasting catastrophic cooling…

  17. Another worrier. permalink
    July 18, 2021 9:50 pm

    So, what’s the concrete ‘footprint’ of a wind turbine?
    Squash court size/ half a football field?
    Germany puts up hundreds/thousands to add to the mass house building so rain water
    has to decant into the rivers. Just another ‘run off’ from the climate warming agenda nonsense.

  18. Ray Sanders permalink
    July 19, 2021 1:31 am

    For reasons I have never fully understood there is a myth in Britain about German super efficiency and organisation that is simply not true. The reality in Germany is a bureaucratic and outdated disorganised system that has very low levels of computerisation and still largely relies on fax transmissions. The early days of covid vaccinations were severely hampered by delays in transmitting faxes of manually held records.
    https://www.dw.com/en/german-health-care-tackling-covid-with-paper-pen-and-a-fax-machine/a-56360491
    Here is a not untypical example of quality German organisation.
    https://www.dw.com/en/berlins-new-airport-finally-opens-a-story-of-failure-and-embarrassment/a-55446329
    That this sad disaster has happened is down to classic German inept lack of organisation but of course you will never hear that reported by the BBC.

  19. cookers52 permalink
    July 19, 2021 8:16 am

    Unfortunately exactly the same will happen in UK,.

    From personal experience, even when severe flood risk is identified, little heed is paid by authorities and public at risk, until something actually happens.

    The UK flood warning system only really covers “main” rivers, emergency resources are not deployed for smaller watercourses.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      July 19, 2021 2:00 pm

      I live in the same postcode as an intermittent watercourse (a “bourne” ) It infrequently turns from a dry riverbed to a raging torrent – though it never affects me as I am some 40 metres higher up. Following severe floods back in the early 2000’s a warning system was set up to notify people it the stream was likely to flow strongly and I was on the alert system. Quietly over the years the warning system has disappeared and on the last two modest flows no advance notifications were given at all. I can pretty much guarantee that many will be caught completely unawares when the next heavy flood occurs and guess what…there are plans for 30 new homes to be built right in the firing line!

      • Floodsafe permalink
        July 19, 2021 8:59 pm

        In the UK, both the Environment Agency and Local authorities have flood monitoring infrastructure in choke points,usually at trash screens on culverts under housing developments and are often added to after a flooding event.
        The business model to trigger the budget is valid, but after a few years, the system is sometimes decommissioned or offered to a local residents flood group for adoption, which struggle to find money for data charges and maintenance.
        During summer biblical type downpours, excess fallen vegetation and garbage is swept rapidly into a culvert screen and water level can rise several meters in 20-30 mins once blocked
        Water level sensors and solar powered cameras send alerts via GSM to field crews who respond and unblock the screen, there by averting local flooding
        Network Rail are now adopting these systems to monitor track side flooding which pose a danger to trains

  20. July 19, 2021 8:21 am

    Reblogged this on Independent Citizens.

  21. Bloke down the pub permalink
    July 19, 2021 12:13 pm

    A month’s worth of rain fell in X hours,’ is a phrase that raises my hackles. In many places, especially in summer months when rainfall is most likely associated with thunder storms, the month’s rain will often be the result of one or two events. ‘A month’s worth of rain’ conjures the image of gentle rain falling every day.

  22. europeanonion permalink
    July 19, 2021 1:37 pm

    If my memory serves me right the same problem with the dams being brim full was a major contributor when the Murray-Darling caused an inundation. Contributor or cause? I don’t remember such events when they were burning lignite.

  23. Gamecock permalink
    July 19, 2021 2:41 pm

    “The real reason for Germany’s flood disaster: A ‘monumental failure of the warning system’”

    Can we give the rain some of the blame? How does Nature get off scot-free in this?

  24. JCalvertN permalink
    July 19, 2021 5:34 pm

    Q/ What could be worse than building houses on a flood plain?
    A/ Putting a caravan park on a flood plain.
    Why?
    Because the caravans (and cars) float very easily and get carried along by the river until they hit an old-style arch bridge – where they get trapped and block-up the river.
    We saw it at Boscastle. And it seems to have happened in Germany too.
    One of the worst hit towns (according to DW news) was Schuld https://static.dw.com/image/58304719_403.jpg the amount of debris is incredible.
    Interestingly only about 1.5 kilos up the valley is this caravan park, where if you’re lucky you can get a spot right beside the river . . . https://www.google.com/maps/place/Campingplatz+Schuld+%2F+Ahr/@50.441413,6.8750509,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m8!1e2!3m6!1sAF1QipPdjTX5UeHx6sNAcBRxAY4VZBGtLy1D0p4fAq4S!2e10!3e12!6shttps:%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2Fp%2FAF1QipPdjTX5UeHx6sNAcBRxAY4VZBGtLy1D0p4fAq4S%3Dw203-h114-k-no!7i4032!8i2268!4m5!3m4!1s0x47bfaa29956a8eb5:0x4ada00b4e6955487!8m2!3d50.441413!4d6.8750509?hl=en

  25. Jack Broughton permalink
    July 19, 2021 5:38 pm

    The argument that warmer air holds more moisture is simple physics, however the behaviour of the moisture is far more complex than the computers can actually model (condensation kinetics are still not fully understood). Obviously, more moisture means more clouds, and more clouds mean more rain. However, more clouds also mean that the earth’s albedo is increased and warming is reduced. Clouds, the sun and nature are the forces that generate real climate change such as slow recovery from the LIA horrors: the climate modellers assume that only CO2 drives the climate – which assertion is simply disproved by examining climate history.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: