The weather has been spectacular for the past week. It all started seven days ago on Friday evening. I had been following the weather reports and widespread thunderstorms and hailstorms had been forecast. This is of particular interest to me because my company works for insurance companies. When there are severe hailstorms, thousands of cars get damaged at the same time. And when that happens the insurance companies can’t cope and we get lots of work. So last Friday I was anxiously following events on various weather websites and online stormchaser forums. I wanted to know what sort of a week to expect…
Germany gets its share of severe thunderstorms every summer – like most continental European countries. We are used to it down South. The Swiss Alps are only about 100 miles from Stuttgart as the crow flies, and we are used to huge storm systems building in the mountains and then drifting North to us. Various interest groups around Stuttgart try to fight the storms by paying for special planes to “seed” the clouds and prevent large hailstones from forming. The vineyard owners, Mercedes, Porsche and the Insurance companies all pay for these planes – there are a total of six of them in the state of Baden Württemberg. I find it amazing that in the only German state to be ruled by the Green Party, we are allowed to spray chemicals into the sky. But I don’t suppose our Green President would be in power if he hadn’t made his arrangements with local industry. A lot is at stake, mind you. At any one time there can be tens of thousands of brand new cars standing out in the open at the Mercedes and Porsche factories. A severe hailstorm really makes a mess of them. Two years ago, a storm hit a nearby town and most of the cars were actually written off – even the windscreens were smashed.
So what happened last weekend. Well, the news was full of images of hailstones and widespread damage so I spent all weekend thinking about how we would cope on Monday (and secretly rubbing my hands together accompanied by an evil-moneygrabbing grin). We even had a fairly impressive hailstorm here. I know we did because it arrived just half an hour after I decided to start the barbecue. I managed to get into the dry and finish burning the meat. Still, I quite enjoyed sitting out on our partially covered patio and experiencing the power of nature first hand. The strange thing about the storms we had at the weekend was that they moved very slowly. In some places it hailed for over an hour and the whole town was covered in up to 30cm of hailstones – people were shovelling their drives just like in winter. In Augsburg (between here and Munich) the German football team was playing in a friendly – but had to delay the second half because of a storm. They even showed clips of hailstones penetrating the roof of the stadium.
As it turns out, the storms weren’t actually that bad. There was more rain than hail and wind, and one or two towns were flooded but after all the drama – not much new business came in on Monday. I had spent the weekend mobilising all the resources I could muster to make sure we hit the ground running… but not much happened. In the end we had all the stress but none of the reward. Then I remembered that it was month end, we had new employees starting the next day and we had also launched a new product which we would be testing this week. Everything came together and has conspired to keep Ariane and I pretty much busy from Monday 6am until… now. But I shouldn’t be complaining because it’s much worse for others.
The big hailstorms never materialised, but the heavy rainstorms haven’t really stopped for a week. Now there are widespread floods like nothing I have ever seen here before. We are used to seeing the Rhine, Main and Oder bursting their banks and partially submerging cities – it happens every year. But the pictures you see are of calm brown water half way up house walls. This year there have been floods in places which never usually flood. They just couldn’t cope with the sudden volume of water coming out of the sky – flash flooding on steroids. Roads and even town centres are filled with raging torrents which are washing cars, trees, kebab-stands(!) away in their paths. It’s spread around too – from Bavaria in the South East up to Westfalia in the North West. Is it climate change? Don’t know but I’ve never seen anything like it in the last 25 years. A few people have died and countless roads and rail tracks have been blocked by mudslides. We’ve been quite lucky here it’s just been a bit damp.
The weather is going to get better from tomorrow onwards and I hope a high pressure system comes to sit on us for a couple of weeks. We all need a break and a bit less drama. In 10 days I have another trip to the mountains planned with my mate Alan and it definitely has to improve by then, nothing less than blue skies will be accepted.