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Why are there autumn storms in Germany?

Extreme winds and heavy rain have left a trail of destruction across Germany, this week, with toppled trees causing major travel disruption and power cuts.


What is autumn like in Germany?


Autumn in Germany is famous for it’s golden, mild and sunny days.

For many people, it’s even the best time of the year:

temperatures are mild and nature is spectacular with leaves changing their colours – similar to the famous Indian Summer in North America.

Golden autumn in Germany

It it’s also an ideal time for travelling:

If you’ve got the time, your destination won’t be as crowded as during summertime, and you can often find great deals on hotel rates.


And of course, there are lots of festivals to go to:

the Oktoberfest in Munich, local Wine festivals, the Pumpkin festival in Ludwigsburg are just some of them!


However, weather can change quickly.

Storms in autumn and winter are – unfortunately – rather common in Germany and the surrounding countries of Central Europe.


Autumn Storm in Germany
Autumn Storm in Germany


Why are there autumn storms in Germany?


The great number of storms is caused by the great differences between temperatures in the north and south of Europe.


Of course, these temperatures are also different during the summer.


But in autumn, the sun is very low, particularly in the North of Europe: While there may still be 20°C and higher in the South, the temperatures in the North may already below 0°C.

Stormy clouds

This strong contrast in temperature leads to storms forming around the front, circulating and mixing air along the temperature gradient as it is trying to find an equilibrium of warm and cold air.

It is a bit like adding cold water to a hot bath: the cold water entering from the tap forms a “front” with the hot water. If you want to have an equilibrium, they need to be mixed.


How severe are storms in autumn?


Autumn storms can be very severe.


The storm we had this October, the first autumn storm in 2021, caused damage and chaos in traffic in large parts of Germany:

  • Strong winds and gale-force gusts caused numerous trees to fall over. They toppled on rails and roads and even on a moving car on a country road.

  • At least one man was killed, and several people were injured.

  • Roofs were uncovered

  • Police and fire brigades moved out on hundreds of missions.

  • “Deutsche Bahn” (German Railway) temporarily had to suspended long-distance traffic in some regions. There were also delays and impairments in regional traffic due to branches or other objects on the tracks and in the overhead lines.

  • In the Harz region, wind speeds of up to 150 kilometres per hour were measured on the Brocken, the highest mountain of Northern Germany – but as the measuring device failed for a few hours, the wind is likely to have been even stronger.

  • Telephone and power lines were damaged, and the power went out in several regions of Germany.



Therefore, if there is a storm warning, it should be taken seriously.


Useful links:


Weather warnings

You will find weather warnings of the Deutsche Wetterdienst here:


Nina-App

There ist also an App to install on your mobile phone by the Federal Government that will warn you of catastrophes or severe weather conditons:


Travelling by train

Is your train delayed or even cancelled?

You can check the latest news here:

Here you will also find links about other public transport that might be affected (busses, S-Bahn, …)



 

Checklist: What to do when a storm is coming up


If there is a storm raging, it’s safest to stay indoors.


If you do need to go outside

  • Avoid Parks, forests and streets with lots of trees! Entering the forest during and a few days after a storm can be life-threatening.

  • Try to get to a safe place as quickly as possible.

  • Make sure to wear appropriate clothes. An umbrella might be destroyed by the strong winds.

Secure your house

  • Did you close all windows, gates and doors?

  • External blinds need to stay open

  • Make sure that parasols are closed.

  • Take bikes, garden furniture and toys inside.

  • Fix everything that you can’t take inside on your balcony, in your garden and around the house: trampolines may easily be blown away.

In the car

  • Drive slowly and carefully. Be aware that other vehicles, particularly busses and lorries may be pushed aside by strong winds.

  • Try to park your car at a place where it can’t be damaged by falling trees, branches or roof tiles.

  • Take down roof boxes ecc. of your car.

  • Make sure your car has got winter tires.


 

And don’t forget:

Be patient with everyone around you.

Some people get a severe headache when a storm comes up – and most of us react by being sad, grumpy, annoyed or even aggressive. So, if other people get on your nerves, it might just be the combination of them being unfriendly and yourself being more sensitive.

Keep calm during a storm

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