Commuters face major disruption as storms lash Germany

Commuters in parts of Germany faced disruption Monday after storms lashed the country.

Commuters face major disruption as storms lash Germany
Parts of tree collapsed in Langen, Hesse, in Sunday's storms. Photo: DPA

Thunderstorms, heavy rain and hailstones caused flooding and trees to fall, affecting rail and air travel in central, eastern and southern regions of the country.

The rail network in the state of Hesse was particularly badly hit due to the weather conditions, a Deutsche Bahn (DB) spokesman said.

In Walldorf – south west of Frankfurt – lightning struck a signal box, DB reported on Twitter. Trains between the main stations of Mannheim and Frankfurt had to be cancelled due to a line closure. DB said the closure would be in place until around 3pm on Monday.

READ ALSO: Clouds, rain and thunder: Is summer in Germany over?

On the routes between Darmstadt and Frankfurt and between Hanau, east of Frankfurt, and Aschaffenburg, in Bavaria, passengers faced disruption because of overhead line problems.

Lightning in Dresden. Photo: DPA

Trees had fallen on the tracks in several places, hindering regional traffic in particular. 

The ICE 930, which had to stop at Aschaffenburg due to damage to overhead lines and trees on the track, was no longer able to continue. A spokesman for DB said passengers had been provided with taxi vouchers.

The spokesman said that delays cancellations could occur in the affected areas. Long-distance traffic was to be diverted, and some trains had to be held back in stations while the clean-up got underway.

Airport cancellations and storm damage

The thunderstorms also caused problems at Frankfurt Airport. In order to protect staff and travellers, handling on the runway was temporarily suspended, a spokeswoman for the airport said. The number of aircraft landings was also reduced. Initially, 26 flights had been cancelled by Sunday evening – mostly domestic flights. Five flights were diverted.

According to the police, the region around Mörfelden in southern Hesse was particularly badly affected by storms. The roof of the town hall was damaged, while cars were hit by falling trees.

The storm also caused damage in Mainz, particularly the Ebersheim district. Two people became trapped under a fallen tree but were not injured severely.

Flooding in Langen, Hesse. Photo: DPA

In Bavaria, hail and storms struck the district of Aschaffenburg. Roofs were damaged and cellars flooded, according to the fire brigade.

Several communities were still without electricity late at night, while more than 500 rescue workers were deployed.

The Autobahn 45 was completely closed in the direction of Seligenstadt. There were no trains on the railway line between Kleinostheim and the state border between Hesse and Bavaria.

A DWD (German Weather Service) spokeswoman said that thunderstorms and heavy rain are also expected to hit the south and southeast on Monday.

There could also be occasional thunderstorms and rain in coastal areas of Germany.

On Wednesday the weather situation improves across Germany, and temperatures are expected to rise.

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Western Germany braces for second round of severe storms

Parts of Germany are set to be pummelled by heavy thunderstorms on Monday - just days after the city of Paderborn was struck by a devastating tornado.

Western Germany braces for second round of severe storms

The 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. 

In southern and western parts of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, severe thunderstorms were expected, with heavy rain and strong gusts of wind throughout the afternoon and into the evening.

However, the worst of the thunderstorms are likely to concentrate near the Black Forest in the state of Baden-Württemberg. 

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

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

The warnings come just 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