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Historic Flooding in Central Europe

By By Jim Andrews, Senior Meteorologist
June 09, 2013, 4:52:49 PM EDT

Some of the worst flooding in memory has struck parts of central Europe in the wake of persistent soaking rain. While flood waters receded in some areas, other communities were still awaiting the worst as crests sweep down major rivers.

At least 17 people have died and many others were missing as of Friday, June 7, 2013, according to the AP, as floods and landslides targeted Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland. Thousands of people have been displaced by flooding as militaries teamed with local authorities and volunteers to shore up flood defenses.

Monday's flood crest of the Danube River at Passau, Germany, reached a level not recorded since 1501, the AP said. The German Chancellor told reporters that the city's flood damage looked worse than that of 2002, the last year of massive flooding in the region.

Farther down the Danube, officials were girding for the big river's flood crest in Bratislava, Slovakia, and Budapest, Hungary.

Meanwhile, in the Czech Republic, Prague had apparently been spared the worst after the Vltava River had its highest crest since 2002. The river's flood waters were headed northward to the Elbe, along which the German city of Dresden was making ready for water levels 5 meters (about 16 feet) above normal, the BBC indicated.

Swollen River Threatens Prague
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Prague Radar forecasters had marginally good news for the sodden region, as some rainfall is expected into early next week, but none is expected heavy and long in duration.

More than 7,000 people left their homes in Eilenburg, Germany, the BBC News website said. In Austria, two months of rain fell within two days, according to the meteorological service.

Much of badly hit Passau, Germany, was "inaccessible by foot" on Monday, the AP said. Evacuations were taking place by boat, and electricity was shut off intentionally in a precautionary measure. Rising water levels had already topped marks reached in 1954, when the city suffered floods said to be worst in living memory.

Two major tributaries, the Inn and the Ilz, meet the Danube River at Passau. All three were carrying a heavy burden of runoff, following days of soaking rain.

Meanwhile, a nationwide state of emergency had been declared for the Czech Republic, the BBC on Monday.

The country suffered at least seven deaths related to the flood, according to the BBC.

In the Czech capital Prague, flood fears led authorities to raise protective metal barriers against the rampaging Vltava River, the AP said. Transportation was disrupted, and many schools were closed.

About 3,000 people had been driven from their homes in and about Prague, the BBC said. Animals in the city's riverside zoo were taken away to safety.

Memories in Prague harkened back to 2002, the last instance of catastrophic flooding in the city. The metal anti-flood walls were raised in reaction to that disaster.

The 2002 flooding that targeted central Europe killed 17 people in Czech, costing about US $26 billion, Reuters said.

Elsewhere in Czech, about 2,700 people had evacuated in the western half of the country.

The flooding was triggered by stubborn low pressure over central Europe, which caused widespread heavy rain to fall along and north of the Alps since the middle of last week. Falls of 2-4 inches have been widespread, with much higher amounts along the Alps.

Weather data accessed as of Monday by showed rainfall of about 9 inches within three to four days at Bregenz, Austria. About 7 inches of rain pelted Kufstein.

The highest peaks along the Alps were freshly buried under deep snow. Snowfall, having the water equivalent of about 8 inches, covered the top of Zugspitze, the highest peak in Germany. The amount of snowfall, while not immediately known, may have topped 8 feet. The rise in snow depth between Friday and Monday was at least 51 inches, despite drifting and settling under gravity.

About 5 feet of snow was measured on Sonnblick mountain in western Austria, weather observations showed.

Flood crests were slated to continue spilling down stream on major rivers such as the Danube, which flows southeastward to the Black Sea.

Meteorologist Eric Leister contributed to this story.

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