We’re still getting wind surges, but in general it is getting more quiet outside. But then, the biggest danger of the massive winter storm Xaver is not the wind (though that’s bad enough) but the flood waters the storm is pressing into the river estuaries. A similar constellation caused the devastating 1962 flood, which killed 315 people in Hamburg alone.
Hamburg has learned the lessons of 1962 and is very well protected by now, though they are evacuating low lying parts of the city. They are also closing the flood gates at the St. Pauli Landungsbrücken, a floating pier for ferries and harbour tour boats in Hamburg city centre. Now the terminal building of the St. Pauli Landungsbrücken is one of my favourite buildings in the whole wide world, which is already suffering from badly repaired WWII damage, so I hope it won’t be damaged any further. I’m also worried about the old Elbtunnel in all its steampunky glory (my photos are here) and the premises of the Blohm + Voss shipyard across the river. The harbours of Hamburg and Bremerhaven have largely closed down, because cranes and container gantries became too dangerous to operate.
In London, they have closed the Thames flood barrier (no current pictures unfortunately, which is a pity, because I’ve never seen the Thames flood barrier closed). In the Netherlands, the massive Oosterschelde flood barrier and most of the Delta Works network of flood barriers, which protects the harbours of Rotterdam and Antwerp, has also been closed. Pretty much every other dyke floodgate in Northern Europe has been closed as well.
Indeed, one thing I have never understood about the US is the failure to react to massive natural disasters. For example, both the Delta Works and the Thames flood barrier are a reaction to the devastating 1953 flood, which was even worse than the 1962 flood and killed 1836 people in the Netherlands, 326 in the UK, 28 in Belgium plus another 230 at sea, while Germany improved its flood protection, evacuation and early warning systems in reaction to the 1962 flood. Meanwhile, in the US there have been no dyke increases or flood barriers installed in response to hurricanes Katrina and Irene. The Mississippi does not have a flood barrier or Delta Works equivalent, though this could have saved New Orleans.
Lots of schools are still closed, though at least in my area they are operating again. Though I probably won’t be seeing a lot of St. Nicholas Day trick or treaters tomorrow because of the storm, which means I may well get stuck with 24 Kinder Surprise Eggs. The Dutch St. Nicholas Sinterklaas who was supposed to go around handing out presents to Dutch children yesterday was badly battered by the storm. In Groningen, one Sinterklaas was even hospitalized due to a storm related injury (trigger warning for blackface in the form of Sinterklaas’ pal Zwarte Piet).
Newcastle crown court had to be evacuated due to flooding. The Oeresund bridge, which connects Sweden and Denmark, has been closed, as has Hamburg airport and Glasgow central station. Amsterdam Schiphol airport, one of the busiest in Europe, had to cancel lots of flights. Bremen airport is still operating and I saw two planes about to land, when I drove past the airport tonight.
As for why I drove past the airport, I did brave the storm tonight to go to the monthly translators’ meet-up at Leo’s Restaurant, especially since I had missed last month’s meet-up due to my university work. There was a lull in the storm at the time and there were no worse effects visible than branches and leaves littering the roads. Indeed most of us felt that at least as far as Bremen and surroundings were concerned, the winter storm Christian which hit us around Halloween had been worse.
I had filet of deer with mushroom sauce, duchess potatoes and creamy savoy cabbage, which was really delicious. And because it’s so close to Christmas, I also treated myself to a hot chocolate brownie with vanilla sauce for dessert.
During dinner, we saw the first flurries of snow through the windows of the restaurant. At one point, there was a combination of a heavy wind gust and snow, so that the snowflakes were falling horizontally, which was a tad worrying. Luckily, it was dry when I drove home. But over night, Xaver brought us more snow. It’s not going to last, since it’s above freezing here in the lowlands. But here are some photos: