Hein (fub) wrote,

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Springtide and Delta Works

Last evening, a severe storm came from the North Sea over the Netherlands. In the north of the Netherlands, public transport was shut down, schools closed early and all that. We've had storms like that before, and the reaction was similar, not much special there.
What was special is that the north-west storm coincided with a springtide. The resulting high water got to just under 4 meters higher than normal -- the highest that had been recorded since 1953.

1953 is a special year for the Dutch. It is the year of the Watersnoodramp. The circumstances were the same: springtide with a north-west storm. The dykes that protected large parts of the south-west of the Netherlands failed and over 1800 people drowned. Many more were displaced, with lots of drowned (farm-)animals and property damage. (The storm also caused deaths in the UK and Belgium, but on a smaller scale.)
Upto that point, the system was "everyone their dyke", but it only takes one lazy farmer who underestimates the dangers to innundate a whole polder. After the flood, it was decided that we didn't want any of that ever again, and the huge Delta Works project was set up to protect the Netherlands from these kinds of floods. The project was so large that the last part was only realised in 1997.

So, yesterday evening we had a storm of the same size as 1953 -- sixty years on. The protocols worked: the locks and movable dams were closed, and all that happened was that part of a road on a dyke collapsed without compromising the integrity of the dyke. It resulted in a tiny article in the newspaper, not in a national disaster.
Nobody seemed to pay it much attention, but to me that says we did something very well.

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