Extreme weather in Germany: how to protect yourself from thunderstorms and flooding

Countless thunderstorms hit us every year – so you put them off and go for a leisurely walk, simply continue the bike tour or your workout.

But Andreas Friedrich from the German Weather Service (DWD) emphasizes: “Thunderstorms are always life-threatening, because every lightning bolt can be fatal.” But Andreas Friedrich from the German Weather Service (DWD) emphasizes: “Thunderstorms are always life-threatening because every lightning bolt can to be deadly.”

What you have to consider outdoors

If you can no longer withdraw into a building, you need a hollow, i.e. a deepening in the terrain. “One should move away from trees, because they are also dangerous when lightning strikes,” explains Friedrich.

“If you have found a trough, I would put the bike a few meters away and also put down a backpack with some metal objects and position it away,” adds the DWD spokesman.

The same applies to a motorcycle. Because metal can conduct the energy of lightning. “Then squat down in this hollow if possible with your feet close together,” says Friedrich. “That way you at least have the chance of not being as exposed and endangered by lightning.”

Forests should be avoided

“There’s this golden rule where you count to three,” explains Friedrich. When you see a flash, you start counting. If you only make it to three before it thunders, the storm is less than a kilometer away. “Then it will definitely be dangerous.”

Would driving into a forest be an option? “No, the forest is always bad,” emphasizes Friedrich. “Because if lightning strikes a tree – and it usually does, because it always chooses a high point in the terrain – and you’re standing in the immediate vicinity of the tree, you can get debris. Such a tree can literally explode, the bark flying off. Then you are more at risk there than in the open air. “And if you are caught in a thunderstorm in the forest with no way out, then the expert recommends looking for a treeless depression – i.e. going as deep in the terrain as possible.

That’s how safe the car is in thunderstorms

“In a normal car you are in a so-called Faraday cage” – and safe, says Friedrich. However, you should not stick your arms out of the window and close it.

Am I always safe in the house or do I have to adapt my behavior, such as not making phone calls? “This rule existed in the days of corded telephones,” explains Friedrich. Because if lightning strikes nearby, the electrical system can be damaged by overvoltages – and you can also damage wired devices directly.

“So I wouldn’t use a corded phone during a thunderstorm. It’s different with a smartphone.” And the expert advises in this context to pull the plugs on electrical devices in the house.

Correct behavior in the event of a tornado

For a long time, tornadoes were something that people in Europe were more familiar with from US news or Hollywood films. But hurricanes with devastating consequences can also occur in Germany and the surrounding area. The German Weather Service (DWD) speaks of 20 to 60 tornadoes per year in Germany – so you should know how to react in an emergency.

Tornadoes are easily recognized by the long trunk of the cloud that stretches from sky to ground. If you see this phenomenon, you should act immediately, because the direction in which the storm is moving is often difficult to predict. The German Weather Service (DWD) gives the following tips:

  • If you have a basement, that’s the best possible hiding place during a tornado. But interior rooms like a bathroom also protect you from flying debris. In any case, stay away from windows!
  • If you’re outdoors, find a hollow in the terrain and lie down as flat as possible, face down. Stay away from buildings where debris could hit you. Falling trees are also a major hazard.
  • You should also close the roller shutters, garage door and all doors of the house or apartment to avoid property damage.

You can use your car or bike to escape in the opposite direction, depending on the strength and speed of movement of the tornado. Observe the cloud tube briefly beforehand in order to be able to better assess its direction. If escape is no longer possible, do not stay in or near your car.

This is how you stay safe during high tide

Flooding and flooding are also common during thunderstorms with heavy rainfall. The danger of large amounts of water is often underestimated. You should note the following:

  • Do not stay in the bank areas, as the terrain can break off due to undermining
  • Turn off electrical appliances and circuit breakers in any room that could be flooded with water to avoid electric shock
  • Never drive your car on (partially) flooded roads, as obstacles in the water or holes in the ground are not visible – the engine can also be severely damaged
  • Do not enter underground car parks as they can become a death trap during severe flooding
  • If you’re outside, flee to as high a spot as possible and stay away from fast-moving water

Even if videos and photos of floods are important for documentation, you should not put yourself in danger in order to get the most spectacular shots possible.

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