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Germany hit by hail, flooding as severe storms sweep nation

Richard Connor | Saim Dušan Inayatullah
Published June 22, 2023last updated June 22, 2023

Areas of Germany have been hit with thunderstorms and giant hailstones as the "Lambert" low-pressure system moves across the country. Uncovered roofs and falling trees were reported in the central state of Hessen.

A vehicle moves broken tree limbs from a street following severe weather in Rhineland Palatinate, Germany
The heavy rains and winds downed trees in the western state of Rhineland-PalatinateImage: Sebastian Schmitt/dpa/picture alliance

Severe storms brought heavy rains and damaging winds to several states in Germany on Thursday, as the German Weather Service (DWD) warned of a heightened risk of tornados, storms and extreme hail after weeks of warm weather.

The service said the movement of a patch of low pressure — and the presence of muggy and hot subtropical air — would cause the atypical conditions for the country.

What is the latest?

Transport authorities in the city of Kassel in the central state of Hessen said that bus and rail connections were disrupted by the storm and that it was unclear when normal services would resume.

Long-distance trains were no longer operating between the cities of Frankfurt and Hannover, and between Berlin and Hamburg, Germany’s federal railway agency said. Train carriages in a number of cities were made available for stranded passengers to spend the night.

Also in Hessen, a number of roofs were ripped off in the town of Waldeck am Edersee, according to a police spokesperson.

In the north of the state, there were reports of trees falling onto parked cars, flooded basements and buildings sustaining hail damage. 

A person holds large hailstones in the German city of Kassel
Large hailstones fell across the central German city of KasselImage: Hutter/vifogra/dpa/picture alliance

Emergency authorities in the western city of Neuwied, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, told Germany news agency DPA that people had to be rescued from their cars after rainwater flooded an underpass late on Thursday.

What is expected?

The DWD said it expected two unusual weather systems to make their presence felt.

In the western states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, it expected heavy rain storms that would make their way north and east to Lower Saxony, Hamburg and Saxony-Anhalt, dumping heavy loads of rain into the night.

Meanwhile, more localized storms were expected in southwestern Germany, with hailstones of about 5 centimeters (2 inches) in diameter possible and severe gusts of up to 100 kilometers (60 miles) per hour.

The DWD said there would be a heightened risk of tornados in central parts of Germany.

While tornadoes in Germany are generally not as destructive or as frequent as in some other parts of the world, such as the United States, they can still cause damage to structures, vehicles and vegetation.

Low pressure moving across Europe

According to the DWD, the stormy weather is due to the low-pressure system "Lambert," which has moved from Spain to France and now to Germany.

Portions of a barn roof have been ripped off following severe weather in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
The storms have also caused damage to several buildings, including blowing off a barn roof in Henau, GermanyImage: Sebastian Schmitt/dpa/picture alliance

That system is carrying "very humid and hot air" from the Mediterranean area, dumping higher amounts of rain than usual at weather fronts as it plows across the continent.

"We have to expect heavy rain in scattered areas that will cause small rivers and streams to overflow and flood underpasses," DWD meteorologist Sebastian Schappert told DPA.

"Particularly over the center of Germany, isolated and locally narrowly limited tornadoes cannot be completely ruled out."

Heavy rain led to disastrous flooding in Germany's Ahr Valley region in 2021 when at least 134 people were killed as flash flooding wrecked whole towns.

Such extreme weather events are said to be made more likely due to fluctuations in temperature and humidity as a result of climate change.

Edited by: Sean Sinico, Rebecca Staudenmaier

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Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.