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Devastating flash-flooding spreading across Europe

Joel Pippard, Sunday July 18, 2021 - 18:12 EST

Over the past few days, catastrophic flooding has occurred in Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and now Austria, killing hundreds of people as rivers rose to their highest levels in decades.

On Thursday, eastern parts of Belgium received up to 97mm of rain in a six-hour period, while Reifferscheid, Germany, collected a harrowing 203mm in just nine hours. On Saturday, Austria’s capital Vienna received 71mm in six hours and tens of thousands of lightning strikes, mainly occurring in a two-hour period. European media are widely referring to these floods as a 'once-in-a-generation' event.

Image: Radar and Lightning over Vienna on Saturday afternoon

During each event, around 70-100mm has fallen in as little as a two-hour period, leaving no time for the ground, drains or rivers to cope with the huge influx of water. These totals represent about 1-2 months worth of rainfall in just a few hours.

A well-developed upper low centered over Italy and the Mediterranean Sea has been drawing an abundance of moisture up and directing it north. On its way, it has been meeting a pool of cold Artic air and generating widespread thunderstorms with torrential rain.

While this system is slowly tracking east, it is weakening but will still likely produce widespread thunderstorms and heavy rain leading to flash-flooding over the next 48 hours. The countries likely to experience the heaviest falls over the next few days will be Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Serbia.

Image: Forecast rainfall in the 48 hours to midnight Tuesday UTC

The system will weaken quickly on Wednesday as a cold front breaks up the low to the south.

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