Storms – How Germany can protect itself from floods · Dlf Nova

Many people died as a result of the severe weather disaster in Germany. And the material damage is also great. Werner Eckert from the SWR environmental editorial team says: Germany could have been better prepared. Because until now there was a lack of reliable warning systems.

During the storms in western Germany, cities like Bad Neuenahr and Schuld (Eifel) were destroyed by the water masses. Many people died. In order to be prepared for severe weather disasters, warning systems would have to be improved and urban planning had to be rethought, explains SWR environmental expert Werner Eckert.

According to Werner Eckert’s statement, there are no warning systems for extreme situations. Just like the current extreme weather events in many parts of Germany. Because of this, the people affected simply would not have reached the warnings. For decades there have been no more serious cases in Germany than in the past few days.

Even river floods on the Elbe or Rhine are not comparable with the current situation, says Werner Eckart. “At river floods you can see lead times. You can see the apex coming.” The apex can often be calculated days in advance. It is different with small rivers like the Ahr. Here it is not enough to rely on lead times because they are much shorter. The water came shot very suddenly.

“In other narrow river valleys – like on the Moselle – there have already been such masses of water. In such notch valleys the water comes in all of a sudden. The lead times are decidedly shorter than with large rivers.”

Werner Eckert, SWR environmental expert

The apex of large rivers can be calculated earlier

Basically, in a warning situation, people need quick and reliable information. But that could be a problem, explains environmental expert Werner Eckert. Citizens do not keep checking their cell phones at night. The warning sirens from military times have been shut down in many municipalities. So there is a lack of opportunities to warn people in good time.

“At night, when people are sleeping, there is no possibility of warning. Nobody looks at their warning apps. Warning sirens are very reliable devices. But in many municipalities they no longer exist.”

Werner Eckert, SWR environmental expert

Water must be able to seep away

So that water can drain away faster, cities should ensure that more water can seep away. The goal: Less water should run off into the sewers, explains Werner Eckert.

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“The word sponge city haunts the media. These are concepts of the municipalities in which a lot of water should be in the ground. Basically that is correct. In this specific case it was such a mass of water that any soil is overwhelmed.”

Werner Eckert, SWR environmental expert

With the current flood, however, all seepage and sewerage concepts would have been overwhelmed. Werner Eckert explains that nothing can absorb such water masses. Risk maps are needed in the future. Such hazard maps already exist for river floods. However, only a few are designed for extreme weather events with heavy rain, as we have just experienced. If that changes, it will be easier to simulate in the future which path the water will take after extreme rainfall.

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