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Elbe flood in 2002

The summer of the year 2002 was one of many floods. Often The Elbe flood is named first, but there were also severe floods along the Danube and the Russian Black Sea coast. In November parts of northern Italy flooded.

The Elbe is a river with a length of nearly 1100 km, with a catchment area of about 150,000 km2. The river flows into the North Sea. About 2/3 of the catchment area is located in Germany, 1/3 in the Czech Republic, and a small part in Austria and Poland. About 25 million people live in the area. About 7.5 million of them live in the five largest cities: Berlin, Hamburg, Prague, Dresden and Leipzig.

Elbe flooding Dresden in Germany.
Elbe flooding Dresden
in Germany.
Source: FLOODsite, Dresden

The Elbe flood is said to be the worst flood in central Europe since the middle ages. Two low pressure areas shortly after each other in August, poured enormous amounts of rain over central Europe. Rainfall events of sometimes over 150 mm per day were recorded in areas where usually less than that falls in the whole month of August. The Dresden weather station recorded 158 mm on August 12 and Zinnwald 312mm! (Source: Munich Re, 2002.) There were flash floods in mountainous tributaries of the Elbe (smaller rivers flowing into the Elbe), like the Upper Mulde and Weisseritz, and slow swell foods in the Elbe itself and the lower tributaries.

Satelite image of the Elbe, in 1995 (top) and in 2002 (bottom).
Satelite image of the Elbe,
in 2000 (top) and
in 2002 (bottom).
Source: Wikipedia commons

The lower satellite picture on the left shows the extent of the Elbe flood, between Torgau and Aken. The upper shows the same are two years before.

The consequences of the flooding were catastrophic in Germany, the Czech Republic and Austria, but Italy, Switzerland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Russia were also badly struck. According to the Dartmouth Flood Observatory there were 55 casualties and 250.000 people evacuated. The economic loss was about 18 billion euro’s in all the concerned countries together. (Source: Munich Re, 2002. Topics-Annual review Natural Catastrophes, 2002.)

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