Western Europe Experiences Wide-Scale Flooding

Cameron Soltys - 3N Mechanical
Posted on: June 5, 2016

Extremely high rainfall in Europe has caused major flooding, displacing thousands of people. The most wide-spread flooding occurred in France, where 20 000 Parisians were evacuated. Substantial damage was also done in Germany, where 51 people were injured by lightning at a music festival, and 11 were killed in other flood incidents. Additional reports of at least two dead in Romania and one missing in Belgium highlight the extent and severity of the damage.

In Paris, the river Seine rose 6.1 m above its normal height. The Zouave statue, a soldier on a pedestal above the river, was covered to his waist. This statue is often used as an informal indicator of the severity of flooding of the Seine, based on how much of him is covered.

All over the city, work is being done to mitigate the worst damage of the flood. Two famous museums on the river, the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay, closed so they could move the parts of their collection that were in basement storage to safety; they are not expected to reopen until Tuesday. All boats except emergency vehicles have been forbidden from the river. This prompted the city to open two gymnasiums to accommodate homeless people; they often find shelter on the river barges that are no longer present. Tourists, unable to take part in the popular river boating activities, have been flocking to other attractions like Notre-Dame cathedral.

While the flooding is devastating, leaving 17 000 homes in the Paris region without power, worse flooding has occurred in 1910, 1955, and 1982. 1910 was the worst of these floods, with the Seine peaking at 8.6 m higher and remaining flooded for two months. Regions outside of Paris are also affected; parts of northeastern France received 6 weeks’ worth of rain in just 24 hours.

The Weather Channel website attributes the substantial rainfall to a weather phenomenon known as a “blocking pattern” in the jet stream. The jet stream formed an Ω-shaped pattern, stretching north along the west coast of Europe, east across Iceland and the Nordic states, and south near Ukraine. Within this geographic area—i.e. most of Europe—a low pressure system developed as expected, drawing moist air up from the Mediterranean. The extreme extent of the blocking pattern has caused this weather system to persist and not move on, resulting in heavy rains across a restricted geographic area.

The worst of the flooding seems to have come to an end. The waters in Paris are not expected to rise any further, and the BBC reports France’s environment ministry as predicting that the floods would be stable over the weekend before dropping in the coming week.