Summer storm floods & hail hit Germany, France, Czech Republic again

by Artemis on June 2, 2016

The trend of European and central European countries being hit by convective style severe weather, thunderstorms, rainfall and flooding continues in 2016, with Germany, France and the Czech Republic all suffering in recent days.

Update 4th June 2016: Paris & France floods & storms could cost insurers over EUR2bn: MAIF.

Update 3rd June 2016: German insurance industry association the GDV said that it expects insurers will face at least $510m (EUR450m) of losses from storm Elvira’s impacts from the 27th to 30th May.

Convective style storms have been a feature of European summers in recent years, with losses in Germany in particular high from hail, torrential rain, flooding and event tornadoes, with impacts felt by insurance, reinsurance and some ILS interests.

In recent days southern and central Germany has been hit by particularly bad flooding, which risk modelling firm AIR Worldwide said “Consistent with what has been observed in previous events, including the 2002 floods, AIR expects much of the loss from this event to occur outside the floodplain.”

As well as the flooding in Germany, the centre of Prague in the Czech Republic has suffered more flooding in recent days and yesterday the river Seine in Paris burst its banks in at least one location in the city.

With rainfall over the course of May having reached near record levels across a swathe of Europe, and storms having continued in the last couple of days, there is an expectation that river levels will continue to rise and flooding could worsen.

After losses last year from severe weather in Europe hit a number of private ILS contracts and collateralised reinsurance arrangements, losses in this region can clearly affect the ILS fund market as well as reinsurance sidecar investments.

It’s early in the season this year for the flooding to have begun and after recent years losses it shows that summer is not just about watching for Atlantic hurricanes, European severe storms are also an important event for insurance, reinsurance and ILS interests to monitor.

AIR Worldwide provided the following update on the Germany floods:

Major Flooding in Southern and Central Germany

BOSTON, June 1, 2016 – According to catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide, communities across southwestern Germany experienced major riverine and flash flooding on the weekend following several days of heavy rainstorms that impacted a broad swath of Europe. On Sunday, more rain fell in a few hours than the region normally experiences over several weeks. Further significant flooding was reported in southeastern Germany on Wednesday. Consistent with what has been observed in previous events, including the 2002 floods, AIR expects much of the loss from this event to occur outside the floodplain. Smaller claims from off-floodplain losses can add up to a significant portion of total insured losses.

Several thousand people were directly affected by the floods in Lower Bavaria. A state of emergency was declared in the districts of Rottal-Inn and Passau. For the Rott River—a tributary of the Inn—the highest flood warning stage was declared, with exceedance of HQ-100 possible at some stations. In Triftern (in the district of Rottal Inn, Bavaria) the Altbach Creek exceeded the highest water levels in the last 25 years. Widespread thunderstorms are forecast to prevail until Friday.

According to AIR, in Germany, a stationary upper-level low pressure system, with a surface low named Elvira, has caused significant hail and heavy rainfall from strong thunderstorms. Rainfall totals from Sunday May 30 through Monday May 31 ranged from 100 to 150 mm in the regions hit hardest. Rainfall amounts in excess of four inches fell in two hours in some regions of southwest Germany, namely the region of Schwaebisch Hall in the north of Baden-Württemberg. The low remained stalled over Germany due to the jet stream, which led to additional flooding. The synoptic situation resulted in a strong contrast between cool dry air in the north and west of Germany with warm moist air over the south and east. It was over this region and along this boundary where strong thunderstorms with heavy rainfall were continuously spawned. In the Baden-Württemberg region, a mesoscale convective system developed, allowing heavy rainfall to persist throughout the evening traversing from the northwest to southeast, and resulting in rainfall totals of 100-150 mm across that area.

Those dynamics combined with the slow movement resulted in favorable conditions for disastrous flooding across the region. Since low pressure gradients prevailed over Germany, the thunderstorms moved very slowly or were quasi-stationary concentrating their precipitation on confined areas. Up to 67 mm of rain in one hour was measured near Landshut (Bavaria) and 124 mm over 24 hours in Neuenstadt am Kocher (District Heillbronn). Lightning injured more than 30 people in Germany and France and killed a man in southern Poland. Discharges measured at the Neckar tributaries Kocher and Jagst went from below average to 10- to 75-year flood levels in as little as two to six hours.

Already on Friday May 27, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Bavaria experienced thunderstorms and large hail. Heavy precipitation in the state of Hesse flooded some basements; a layer of hail up to 20 cm accumulated. Thunderstorms across southern and central Germany on Saturday May 28 flooded basements. Hail up to 5 cm in diameter was reported in southern Bavaria, and a 10 cm hail layer accumulated; 33 people were injured by a lightning strike at a soccer match. Sunday May 29 saw major flash floods in Baden-Wüerttemberg, Bavaria, and Hesse; additional flooding occurred in the Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse on Monday May 30 and in Lower Bavaria on June 1.

While local floods have been reported over the weekend across southern and central Germany, the greatest destruction appears to have been experienced in Schwaebisch Gmuend. The worst flash flooding occurred in the small town of Braunsbach on the slopes of a narrow valley on the Kocher River. A fast moving torrent of water swept through the town and piled debris up to two or three meters high. Streets were choked with debris including mud, cars, boulders, and trees. In addition to the flash flooding there was flooding on the valley bottom, where gauges went from below average to 10- to 75-year water levels in a matter of hours. The banks of two streams were reportedly breached.

The Kocher flows into the Neckar, the 10th largest river in Germany, on which shipping was temporarily suspended as levels rose above the bank full stage.

The flooding occurring on Wednesday in Lower Bavaria along the Inn and its tributaries caused severe damage to buildings, cars, and infrastructure. At least four houses reportedly have collapsed or have been carried away. Flooded transformer stations caused power and communication outages.

According to AIR, about 90% of single-family homes in Germany are of masonry construction, with the remainder typically wood; a few are reinforced concrete. The presence of a cellar increases the risk for contents damage, although heavily used cellars often have better flood defenses than unfinished ones. Apartment buildings are generally of masonry and reinforced concrete. Commercial buildings are typically of masonry or, in some cases, reinforced concrete. Note that many buildings in the region have mixed occupancies, with the ground floor used for shops while the upper floors are residential.

According to AIR, of all the natural hazards that cause property damage in Europe, flood is the most costly. Flooding is a regular occurrence—one not limited to the coast or low-lying river valleys, but nearly ubiquitous due to off-floodplain flash flooding. Damage data from recent flood events in Germany indicate that a significant portion of flood losses come from off-floodplain locations, often at a considerable distance from large rivers and their floodplains.

The average flood insurance take-up rate for residential buildings across Germany is estimated at around 38%. However, there are significant regional differences in insurance. There is no nationwide compulsory insurance coverage for flood, and it is typically excluded from standard residential, commercial, and industrial policies. The exception is Baden-Württemberg, where most building policies include flood coverage. The take-up rate in Baden-Württemberg is 95%, but in neighboring Bavaria it is only 27%.

Risk modelling firm RMS also updated on flooding in Germany, as well as France and other areas:

Central Western Europe Flooding
Event Date: 28-May-2016
Last Modified: 02-Jun-2016
Flood; Europe and Middle East

A slow moving low pressure system has been causing heavy rainfall and flooding over central western Europe since Saturday May 28, particularly in France and Germany.

Yesterday, Wednesday June 1, several towns in Bavaria were inundated by flash flooding and residents in the town of Nemours (pop. ~13,000) in central France had to be evacuated after the River Loing burst its banks, inundating the town center. On Sunday May 29 flash flooding in Baden-Württemberg, southwest Germany, destroyed one home and brought dozens of others to the brink of collapse in the village of Braunsbach (pop. ~900).

A red warning (the most severe) for flood is currently in force in the Seine-et-Marne department in France, and red warnings for rain, wind and thunderstorms are in force for a large region of central and northwestern Germany. More rain and flooding is expected in central western Europe as it is unlikely that the low pressure system will move substantially in the coming days.

The worst of the flooding in France has occurred in the center and northeast of the country, with dozens of towns and villages reportedly flooded. Yesterday, Wednesday June 1, 3,000 residents were evacuated from the town of Nemours (pop. ~13,000) in the Seine-et-Marne department, after the River Loing burst its banks, inundating the town center and, according to the mayor, damaging all of the shops.

Several towns and villages along the River Loing have been flooded; photos show chest-deep water filling one street in the town of Montargis (pop. ~14,500). School classes have been suspended in 26 communes along the river, a tributary of the River Seine, and music concerts have also been cancelled. On Wednesday June 1, over 10,000 households in the departments of Loiret, Seine-et-Marne and Yvelines lost electricity, with some households still disconnected. The residents of three retirement homes and 300 prisoners in the Saran penitentiary in Loiret were evacuated earlier this week, as were some residents in the northern Pas de Calais region following river flooding. In the Meuse department, thirty homes have been flooded after the Orne River overflowed.

Floodwaters are also threatening Chambord Castle, a major tourist attraction in the Loir-et-Cher department. On Monday May 30, all matches of the French Open tennis completion in Paris were cancelled because of the weather conditions. Play has been continually interrupted by rain during the remainder of the week. The A10 motorway linking Paris with the southwest is partially closed yesterday near Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines. Approximately one third of departmental roads in Loiret are currently blocked by floodwaters, according to officials. Trains between Thionville and Luxembourg have been suspended since Monday, and are expected to remain closed for several days. No Transilien, Intercity or TER trains are currently running on the Paris-Montparnasse or Versailles-Chantiers lines.

In Paris, flooding has caused disruption on the B, D and E suburban train lines and on the Tramway line. By 22:00 UTC on Wednesday June 1, the level of the River Seine in Paris had reached 14.8 ft (4.5 m). Over the weekend the river levels are expected to rise to up to 18.7 ft (5.7 m), which may cause some basements to flood, although this is still not high enough to cause ‘significant damage’, according to authorities. Navigation has been stopped on the river and it is not expected to be allowed to resume until next Wednesday (June 8). Some river bank sections have been closed to the public. One fatality caused by the floods has been reported so far in France. In the three day period between May 28 and May 31, 93 mm (3.7 in) of rain fell in the Loiret department, the highest three day total since 1960, according to Meteo-France. The average total May rainfall for Loiret is 50 mm (2.0 in).

The worst of the flooding in Germany so far has occurred in the southern states of Baden-Wurtemberg and Bavaria, although the northwest of the country has also been affected. Several towns and villages have been inundated, particularly in the district of Rottal-Inn in Bavaria, where water levels are going down, but some houses are still under water. Heavy rainfall caused rivers and streams in Triftern, Bavaria (pop. ~5,200) to overflow on Wednesday June 1, with water over head-height in several places damaging houses and dragging cars and furniture down streets. Several air evacuations were necessary and several hundred children were trapped in a school until Wednesday evening. In the town of Simbach (pop. ~9,700) in the Rottal-Inn district of Bavaria, photos show flood waters coursing down a street on Wednesday. Several buildings have been damaged or destroyed.

A flood emergency was also declared in Passau (pop. ~50,000), in southeast Germany on the border with Austria. Approximately 9,000 homes are still without power in Bavaria. Damage has also been reported in North Rhine-Westphalia in northwestern Germany. There is standing water in the historic old town of Xanten (pop. ~21,300). In the village of Braunsbach (pop. ~900) in Baden-Wurtemberg, heavy rainfall on Sunday May 29 caused flash flooding, turning three streams into torrents, sweeping away two bridges, destroying one home and bringing dozens of homes to the brink of collapse, forcing evacuations. According to one resident, water flooded the streets to a depth of 7-10 ft (2-3 m). Photos show the streets of Braunsbach covered in mud and debris, which has buried or damaged several cars and properties. In Neckarsulm (pop. ~26,000), in northern Baden-Württemberg, an Audi car factory suspended production after parts of the plant were inundated at the weekend. Parts of the factory resumed production on the afternoon of May 30. The German Meteorological Service (DWD) recorded intense rainfall rates up to 90mm (3.5 in) in 12 hours in Baden-Württemberg.

The average precipitation for the whole month May is 27 mm (1.1 in). At least eight fatalities have been caused by the flooding and severe weather in Germany so far.

Meteorological Conditions and Forecast.
The heavy rainfall is being caused by a slow moving low pressure system which is stalling over central Europe due to the presence of a high pressure blocking pattern. A red warning (the most severe) for flood is currently in force in the Seine-et-Marne department in France, and red warnings for rain, wind and thunderstorms are in force for four states in central and northwest Germany: Bremen und Niedersachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Nordrhein-Westfalen and Hessen. Rivers are expected to rise further in the coming days in central and northeastern France and in southern, eastern and central Germany, which could lead to further river flooding. Further rainfall is forecast in both countries which could lead to more flash flooding and exacerbate river flooding.

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