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Flood defenses helped limit damage from northern Europe storm


December 11, 2013   by Canadian Underwriter


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Flood defenses in the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands helped limit damage from the extratropical cyclone that hit northern Europe last week, according to AIR Worldwide.

The storm, known mainly as Xaver but also as Sven in Sweden, Bodil in Denmark and Ksawery in Poland, brought hurricane-force winds to much of northern Europe, causing travel disruptions and power outages, according to the catastrophe modelling firm.

Storm surge in the U.K. and Netherlands was the highest seen since the North Sea floods of 1953, according to AIR, although flood defenses helped to limit damage.

Coastal defenses also helped limit damage in Hamburg in Germany, the firm noted. In that country, waves six metres high were recorded, the second-highest since recorded measurements began in 1825, AIR said.

“Tidal floods that hit Hamburg were similar to those that drenched the city in 1962, causing the worst flooding in living memory,” the firm said.

Overall, at least 10 people in northern Europe were killed by the storm, and power and communications disruptions affected 500,000 households in northern Europe.

In the U.K., 1,400 properties were damaged by flooding in coastal communities in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, northeastern Wales, and by heavy precipitation that caused rivers to burst their banks, AIR also said, based on reports from the Environment Agency there.

The EA also reported that more than 2,800 km of flood defenses successfully protected more than 800,000 properties from the high storm surges. The Thames Barrier was closed twice during the storm, successfully protecting London from flooding, AIR also noted.

“Based on initial assessments, Xaver’s wind impact is expected to be less than that of Christian, as wind speeds were generally lower in regions affected by both storms,” AIR noted. “Winds toppled trees and caused widespread roof damage throughout the affected region, but significant structural damage is expected to be limited.”