Heavy rainfall and severe flooding recently struck the U.K., France, and Germany, resulting in travel disruptions and emergency evacuations that even sent one nation’s army into action to combat the problems.
Heavy storms impact the United Kingdom
Severe storms rushed across southern England earlier this month, causing extensive flooding in various communities. The U.K. government reported that over 300 flood warnings were issued across the country. The Great Western Railway closed several routes because of flooding for two consecutive days.
According to The New York Times, several U.K. rivers flooded because of rising water levels caused by rain. The local government of Nottinghamshire County, located along the Trent River, declared the storm a major incident because of flooding hazards.
‼️THREAD | Major incident declared due to flooding along the River Trent— Nottinghamshire County Council (@NottsCC) January 4, 2024
Nottinghamshire and Nottingham Local Resilience Forum has declared a major incident due to rising river levels on the River Trent and the flooding and future flooding in the area, caused by #StormHenk. 👇 pic.twitter.com/yjof4W0V8C
Evacuation efforts also commenced in communities more prone to rising water levels. According to the London Fire Brigade, around 50 people were evacuated in East London after roadways and sidewalks began to flood.
Across the English Channel
The winter storm was also felt in France, as 500 homes lost power and public services conducted over 700 evacuations, according to The Times. The prefecture of Pas-de-Calais, a northern department of France, reported that over 2,000 households and nearly 60 businesses were impacted by flooding.
Since flooding struck France in November of last year, many locals told The Times that they felt “exhausted.” French government spokesman Olivier Véran suggested that climate change may be contributing to ongoing floods, according to Le Parisien.
“It is feared that every year there will be more fires in summer and more floods in winter,” Véran said in an interview on RMC radio.
Heavy rain struck Germany as well, damaging dams and flooding villages and farmlands. According to The Times, the German army was deployed to install dikes in flooding regions. However, the week-long weather troubles deemed dikes and temporary dams ineffective.
The implications of severe winter rainstorms
Although winter rainstorms are not rare in Europe, their increased occurrence and heightened severity may be a result of climate change. According to EuroNews, El Niño weather patterns and above-average ocean temperatures near Europe have caused more evaporation and, therefore, more rain in low-lying regions.
If left unchecked, flooding issues present various hazards to European communities. The European Commission estimates that floods in the EU caused almost 5,600 fatalities and more than €250 billion ($273.7 billion) in losses between 1980 and 2021. Additionally, higher water temperatures foster the growth of waterborne pathogens, posing severe health risks for residents directly exposed to flood waters.
As Europeans deal with the aftermath of the storm, government officials are working on solutions to prevent future flood disasters. In an interview with Le Parisien, Christophe Béchu, France’s environment minister, estimated that the French government plans to invest over €100 million ($109 million) in flood prevention.
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