Travel chaos after thunderstorms and rain lash eastern Germany

Commuters faced travel disruption on Wednesday due to torrential rain, giant hailstones and thunderstorms in the east of the country.

Travel chaos after thunderstorms and rain lash eastern Germany
Lightning above the Federal Chancellery in Berlin on Tuesday night. Photo: DPA

The storms resulted in flooded streets, homes and roads as well as fallen trees – and fires caused by lightning strikes, reported broadcaster RBB 24.

Hailstones as big as table tennis balls – around five centimetres in size – were recorded by the German Weather Service (DWD) in Saxony and Brandenburg.

In Berlin and nearby Potstdam alone, emergency services were called out more than 300 times.

Due to flooding, sections of two important motorways had to be closed. The Stadtring (A100) at Kaiserdamm in the direction of Neukölln was still shut on Wednesday morning.

Traffic was being diverted via the Kaiserdamm exit, causing delays.

SEE ALSO: IN PICTURES – Giant hailstones hit Munich as storms continue across Germany

Flooding in the west of Berlin. Photo: DPA

The A115 (known as the AVUS) between Spanischer Allee and Kreuz Zehlendorf was closed in both directions on Wednesday, a police spokesman said. The closure was causing traffic jams.

The Schlichtallee road in Rummelsburg between Haupt and Lückstraße was also closed. Other roads, including the Sachsendamm, became flooded.

Emergency forces had to pull several vehicles out of the water in the night. Traffic lights also failed throughout the city.

SEE ALSO: Thunderstorms and heat wave forecast for Germany

S-Bahn disruption

The Berlin S-Bahn was also affected by the weather. According to operator Deutsche Bahn, a lightning strike in Alt-Reinickendorf was causing delays and possible train cancellations on the S25 line.

Some ticket machines were not working due to power outages.

Passengers at both Berlin airports – Tegel and Schönefeld – faced delays as they were unable to board or disembark aircrafts for several hours between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. However, a spokesperson for the airports said take-offs and landings were possible.

The spokesperson could not say how many passengers were affected.

Cars stuck

The Brandenburg state capital Potsdam was also hit particularly hard by the thunderstorms and torrential rain. Cellars and underground garages filled with water, streets were flooded, trees overturned and cars were damaged.

Rescue workers in Potsdam. Photo: DPA

In the Babelsberg district, a car got stuck in an underpass and had to be pulled out of the water by rescue teams. In the Bornim area, a house caught fire after lightning struck. The residents were able to get out in time and nobody was injured.

Storm chaos

Giant hailstones, similar to the hail showers in Munich on Monday, were reported in Saxony and Brandenburg.

Meanwhile, in Prerow, in the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, an apartment building caught fire after lightning struck. Luckily, nobody was injured.

In Bad Hersfeld in Hesse, thunderstorm warnings had an effect on the festival programme for Hessentag, an annual celebration held in the central German state. To be on the safe side, organizers cancelled Tuesday evening's events.

More rainfall and storms

Forecasters have a warning in place for more storms in the east of the country on Wednesday. The warning is from 1pm until midnight on Thursday.

Lightning in Brandenburg on Tuesday night. Photo: DPA

Thunderstorms, giant hailstones, winds of up to 100km/h and heavy rain could be on the way.

In some places, such as parts of Saxony, huge amounts of rainfall is possible, a DWD spokesperson said.

The map shows the storm warning in eastern Germany on Wednesday, and the heat warning further east.

Temperatures in eastern Germany will remain very warm on Wednesday. According to the DWD, the mercury could climb to 34C, with the Brandenburg city of Frankfurt/Oder becoming particularly hot.

In western Germany it is becoming cooler, and in many places the temperature will remain below 20C.

The thunderstorms are expected to move east towards Poland in the night. The risk of storms in Germany decreases on Thursday and Friday.

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Western Germany hit by second round of severe storms

Parts of Germany were once again pummelled by heavy thunderstorms on Monday - just days after the city of Paderborn was struck by a devastating tornado.

Western Germany hit by second round of severe storms

A severe weather warning was issued on Sunday by the German Weather Service (DWD), who cautioned residents in western and southwestern regions of the country that fierce gusts of wind, hailstones and heavy rain could once again be on the horizon.

A  second tornado could “not be ruled out” in the southwestern regions of the country, DWD warned. 

North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, were struck by heavy rain and hailstorms and strong gusts of wind throughout the afternoon.

However, the worst of the thunder and hailstorms warnings were for the state of Baden-Württemberg. 

Here, DWD issued a Stage 3 weather warning – the second highest possible. Severe thunderstorms with gale-force winds at speeds of up to 110km per hour were forecast, with up to 50 litres of rain per square metre falling in a short space of time.

According to the meteorologists, the storms are expected sweep across to the eastern regions of the country and ease off in the evening.

The storms and severe weather warnings came days after the city of Paderborn in North Rhine-Westphalia was hit by a devastating tornado.

According to the local fire brigade, 43 people were injured in the storm, with 13 of them needing to be hospitalised and one person reportedly fighting for their life. 

Railway services were cancelled across many parts of the west over the weekend, but resumed again on Monday.

Air travel in some parts of the country was also affected, with Frankfurt Airport in the central state of Hesse saying there was disruption to flights on Friday. 

Videos posted on social media depicted the strongest part of the tornado tearing through the city, ripping trees up by their roots.

The damage to infrastructure and buildings caused by the storm is estimated to be in the millions.

Schools remain closed

As of Monday, several schools and nurseries remained closed in both Paderborn and nearby Lippstadt due to fears that the buildings couldn’t be safely entered.

In the small town of Lippstadt alone, five nurseries and seven schools were closed for repairs on Monday, with administrators unable to say when they would reopen their doors.

“Given the extent of the damage we see at the various locations, it is currently unthinkable that classes can be held there in the next few days,” said Mayor Arne Moritz (CDU).

In Paderborn, meanwhile, drones were exploring five closed school buildings to check whether there was a risk of damaged roofs imploding. The streets where the schools are located have been closed off to the public and the police are believed to be patrolling outside to stop anyone entering.

READ ALSO: Tornado in western Germany injures dozens

Damaged roof in Paderborn

A damaged roof in the aftermath of the Paderborn storms. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lino Mirgeler

More frequent tornadoes? 

Tornadoes aren’t infrequent in Central Europe, but recently appear to be gaining in frequency and intensity, which experts suggest could be a result of climate change. 

In June 2021, a deadly tornado swept through several villages in the Czech Republic near the Slovakian and Austrian borders, killing six people and injuring a further 200. 

At time, climatologists pointed out that until 2020, the Czech Republic only saw a handful of tornadoes each year – and most of them were relatively mild.

Speaking to WDR on Sunday, climate researcher Dr. Mojib Latif drew a direct parallel between warmer temperatures and more violent and regular storms.  

“In Germany there are approximately between 20 and 40 tornadoes per year,” he told the regional media outlet. “We have to reckon with that. As the climate gets warmer and thunderstorms become more violent, the frequency of tornadoes will also increase.”

However, some experts have been more cautious about drawing a direct link.

“That simply cannot be determined at the moment,” meteorologist Jürgen Schmidt told RND. 

Schmidt thinks the perception that tornadoes have increased in recent years could have a slightly more prosaic explanation.

The fact that people are able to record them on their smartphones and share these images more widely could contribute to this impression, he said. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard