Vienna & Austria Hit With Heavy Rainfall and Flooding

Downpours this past weekend caused floods across the country, leaving Hallein in Salzburg and Kufstein in Tyrol underwater. In the capital, more rain fell in an hour than in the previous seven weeks together.

Over the weekend, in some places in Austria, it has rained more than normally falls in the entire month of July – and it is not over yet. At the Hohe Warte weather station of the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG), over 96 liters per square meter rain fell in just a few hours. The average rainfall there for the entire month of July there is 70 liters per square meter.

Storms Over Vienna

Vienna has seen heavy rainfalls too, with flooded garages, tunnels, cellars, and U-Bahn stations. Within an hour Saturday night, 15 liters of rain per square meter fell in the capital – as much as in all of the past seven weeks combined, according to the Vienna Professional Fire Department. The fire brigade was deployed more than 1,400 times in the last 48 hours.

“On Saturday, there were three storm cells in Vienna, the second of which brought the most precipitation,” Thomas Turecek of ZAMG told Wien heute. “The first storm cell on Saturday around 18:00 mainly affected Donaustadt, the second mainly Döbling, Hietzing, Liesing, the third then brought rain for the entire city.”

“The majority of the operations involved pumping out flooded basements, underground garages, or underpasses,” explained fire department spokesman Jürgen Figerl. In the south of Vienna, the Petersbach and Liesingbach rivers burst their banks in places. Leaking roofs or doors also kept the professional fire department busy.

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“We are still permanently in action with all emergency forces that are available,” Figerl described the situation on late Sunday morning. Off-duty firefighters were called in and additional pumping engines were placed in service. Additional positions for emergency calls were staffed. Support also came from the Vienna Provincial Disaster Relief Service and the two volunteer fire departments of Vienna-Süßenbrunn and Vienna-Breitenlee.

Power Outages Across the City

The heavy rain also caused numerous power outages during the night, affecting a total of 6,650 households throughout Vienna. In Oberlaa and Inzersdorf, for example, 3,000 households were temporarily without power, in Donaustadt about 1,000 and in Ottakring about 1,150, as Wiener Netze told Radio Wien. In the Landstraße district, a transformer station had to be pumped out.

The disruptions did not all occur at the same time, Wiener Netze spokesman Christian Call emphasized. On average, customers were back on the grid after 90 minutes. The power outages were triggered by “weather conditions such as atmospheric disturbances, lightning strikes in overhead lines and overvoltages in transformer stations,” Call explained. Wiener Netze was on the road with several emergency teams to repair the damage.

Due to the heavy rainfall, the Danube has been flooding since Saturday, the CityÆs flood protection teams have been on duty since early afternoon. The employees of the flood protection of the City of Vienna have been on duty since Saturday afternoon. Swimming in the Neue Donau is currently baned because large amounts of water flow into the Neue Donau during Danube floods. The flood control center in the intake structure in Langenzersdorf as well as the two other weirs 1 and 2 on the New Danube were manned.

At Matzleinsdorfer Platz, the underpass on the Gürtel was under water, with the station entrance temporarily transformed into a waterfall.

New Rain Records Across Austria

In some places, Saturday’s rainfall was among the highest ever measured in 24 hours. For example, St. Pölten reported one of the highest 24-hour rainfall amounts in measurement history, with almost 104 liters per square meter.

According to the ORF weather newsroom, nearly 100 liters of rain per square meter fell in some parts of Vienna on Saturday. A heavy rain warning is also in effect for all of Sunday. All over Austria, enormous amounts of rain can fall in a very short time. In Vienna, there is also a risk of heavy downpours and thunderstorms. Thus, further flooding cannot be ruled out.

Heavy Rain in Tyrol, Kufstein Flooded

In Tyrol, the heavy rain on Sunday has continued to challenge the emergency services. Numerous mudslides, flooded basements, and underground garages were the result of the heavy rainfall. Fortunately, nobody was killed. The city of Kufstein was particularly affected. “The city center is underwater in a form we have never experienced before,” reported Kufstein’s mayor Martin Krumschnabel. Authorities assured those affected of financial support from the disaster fund.

It is not yet possible to think about clearing up the area. The fire departments are busy pumping out the streams and removing blockages. The city center, in particular, was badly affected – streets, cellars, and garages were underwater. A disaster train was on duty, and residents were asked not to come into the city.

Emergencies in Salzburg

In the federal state of Salzburg, the old town of Hallein was flooded. On Saturday evening, the Kothbach burst its banks and flooded large parts of the city center. The civil defense alert in the Tennengau district capital remains in effect.

A dead man was recovered from the Saalach river near Saalbach-Hinterglemm (Pinzgau) this afternoon. Firefighters and water rescuers searched for the man after he was spotted in the Saalach shortly before.

Other municipalities in Salzburg are also in flood operation. In Kuchl (Tennengau), the drinking water has been contaminated since Sunday morning because of the flood. According to the current status, mudflows may have contaminated the drinking water, said Stefan Vötter of the Civil Defense.

Since Saturday evening, the emergency services have been fighting against the masses of water after the heavy rain – dozens of streams and rivers have burst their banks. In the Upper Pinzgau region, the situation has again come to a head on Sunday around Bramberg. 2,500 firefighters have been in action so far.

High Alert in Lower Austria

In Lower Austria, in Neuhofen an der Ybbs and Ferschnitz (both district Amstetten, Lower Austria) the civil defense alarm has been triggered Sunday noon. Due to the extreme precipitation, the water level of the Danube is rising, according to the regional warning center. The population is asked to go to higher floors and to avoid basements at all costs.

In the communities along the Danube, work began on Sunday morning to use sandbags to close individual gaps between the concrete foundations that serve as flood protection. According to the federal state fire command, the mobile aluminum flood protection walls are not needed at the current moment. “The warning limit will be exceeded,” said the spokesman of the provincial fire brigade command, Franz Resperger, “but the bottom line is that we do not expect large-scale flooding along the Danube.”

Mudslides in Upper Austria

In Upper Austria, heavy rainfall triggered flood alarms, mudslides and flooded cellars, especially in Steyr and Schärding, as well as in the Steyr catchment area and in the Salzkammergut region. The B145 road is interrupted near Traunkirchen, in Ach in the Innviertel the Salzach river rises higher and higher.

In its forecast, Upper Austria’s Hydrographic Service was assuming that the level of the Inn in Schärding could rise to a maximum of seven meters, within existing levels of flood protection. During the 2013 flood, the Inn River in Schärding rose to 10.57 meters.

Rain Also in Styria, Carinthia, Vorarlberg

Heavy rain caused danger of flooding and mudslides also across Styria. In Upper Styria, for example, numerous cellars were flooded; the B24 had to be closed.

In Vorarlberg, too, the fire department had to be called repeatedly, the city of Dornbirn was particularly affected. In the area of the Gechelbach, which overflowed its banks, numerous buildings were flooded.

In the Seebach valley in the municipality of Mallnitz in Carinthia, several mudslides occurred on Saturday afternoon. A mountain chalet host couple, who were still in their hut at 1,338 meters above sea level, had to be flown out by helicopter.

Government Pledges Support

On Sunday, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) and Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) pledged help from the disaster fund to those affected by the floods. “The pictures from parts of Austria and especially from Hallein or the Tyrolean Unterland make us concerned and shocked. As the federal government, we will do everything in our power to help those affected on the ground,” Kurz said. He thanked the “emergency forces and all volunteers for their commitment to our fellow citizens.”

After the tumultuous weekend, the weather ought to gradually calm down in the coming week. High temperatures approaching 30 degrees Celsius are forecast for Monday through Friday. However, local showers or thunderstorms are also possible in the next few days.

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Benjamin Wolf
Benjamin studied Journalism, History and International Affairs. After stints with Cafébabel in Paris and Arte in Strasbourg, he is now working as managing editor and COO for Metropole in Vienna. Fields of expertise are politics, economics, culture, and history. Photo: Visual Hub

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