Keeping Your Head Above Water

For those of you with property in the immediate vicinity of the river, flooding is always going to be in the back of your mind particularly with the current rainfalls being experienced across Europe. However, don’t despair too much as there are two very useful websites where you can monitor river levels from anywhere in the world allowing you to better decide when to either phone a neighbour and ask them nicely to clear out your ground floor or to make sure your insurance covers flood risk.

The first site is “Mosel Webcams“. As the name suggests, from there you can get real time video images streamed to your computer or smartphone from selected locations in several of the larger towns along the Mosel. The cameras are on all 24/7 and after the storms we have recently experienced the footage can be quite dramatic.

The website was started by two couples – Harald and Bernadette Mohr and Rüdiger and Heidi Mitscher – originally just to show off their home town of Traben-Trarbach, but the idea proved so popular that they added eleven more cameras in other locations and I am jolly grateful they did. Please do make use of the site and click on their sponsors from time to time so that they can continue to provide this excellent service. The site is in German only but is very easy to use even if you don’t speak the language.

The other website I find really useful if a little scary at times is the official “Hochwassermeldedienst” or “Flood Reporting Service” which covers all the major rivers and tributaries in the state of Rhineland Palatinate. Although it is also in German, much of it is pictorial and self-explanatory. For example, clicking on “Mosel” then “Karte” (which means maps) takes you to a simple map showing the monitoring points on the river, each identified by a coloured point representing the current river level status with green being less than the 2 year high water level (or in laymans terms, flood that occurs about once every 2 years in the statistical average) all the way up to purple which is the highest level i.e. greater than the fifty year flood level. It all depends where your property is located which colour is the one you need to watch out for. My house was last caught by the hundred year flood back in 1993, so I only need to start panicking when the alert hits purple.

Clicking on “Hochwasserfrühwarnung” or “High water early warning” reveals a simple map of the region similarly colour coded – green means all is okay, purple means inflate that dinghy and batten down the hatches. Although the map shows no place names, hovering your mouse over each section of the map will identify the municipality and you can click on those to get a bit more detail.

This site also offers graphs showing the current level of the main rivers (“Hauptpegel) as well as the tributaries (“Nebenpegel”) for each of the main rivers in the state.

 

 

Move Over Venice

When I bought my house in Zell, it was always in the back of my mind that the proximity to the river means that flooding is a distinct possibility. The house was advertised as being in a “high water free” location, and indeed it does sit a bit above the surrounding houses that I know do flood from time to time.

Anyway, I was scouting the internet for old pictures and I was not sure whether to laugh or cry when I found a picture of my street with water half way up the front doors, and my house was in the centre of the picture! The picture was taken in the flood of 1993, which was regarded as the “hundred year flood”. So I figured that – statistically at least – my place should be reasonably safe for a few years to come!

The prospect of being flooded out is to a total land lubber like me freaky to say the least. But the locals don’t seem to share my concerns – water off the proverbial duck’s back to them, if you’ll pardon the pun. They are obviously used to the river bursting its banks, and they know when and how to prepare for it, to minimize the risk, to limit the damage and how to clear up quickly afterwards. This is beautifully illustrated in this German video:

I was astounded when I saw this. The river roars past, quickly claiming large swathes of the adjacent land, flooding the cellars and ground floors of premises located in its way, but with the efficiency the Germans are noted for, those premises are swiftly cleared and everyone resorts to living upstairs and getting around by rowing boats. What Impressed me most was the community spirit and the camaraderie – watch out for the two ladies in the rowing boat before and after they have had a drink!

So watch out for future videos of the Mosel “Hochwasser” – you might see me paddling away from my lounge window on my way to the pub!