The fury of the North Sea

A huge storm is brewing in the North Sea. The Dutch and the Brits are closing their imposing coastal barriers to keep the water away from their cities. The largest seaport in Europe, Rotterdam, is closed for a day, and oil rigs have been evacuated. The coastal residents in Britain, Holland, Germany, Denmark, and Norway are bracing for gale force winds and a 12-foot storm surge – similar conditions in 1953 killed more than 2000 people.

The storms in the North Sea are still truly frightening. These storms used to be the time when the coastal residents had to pay the price for harvesting the bounty of the Sea. Countless ships were lost to the ferocious winds and frigid breakers. I read somewhere that more ships are unaccounted for in the North Sea than in the infamous Bermuda Triangle.

In the late 80s, I lived for two years on Norderney, a German coastal island in the North Sea, and I experienced several Winter storms. One was especially ferocious, and I remember watching huge breakers crashing over the 20-foot concrete dikes that surround the main town on the island. Some of the streets were flooded, and I remember that the water cut an inlet across the eastern part of the island, where it is about a mile wide (1-2 KM). The docks in the harbor were under water, and we were completely cut off from the main land for several days. Unlike hurricanes, these storms can last for days and days, and can reach sustained wind speeds of 50-60 mph/80-100 KpH.

I really hope that these barriers work. For most, this is the first real test. And I hope no lives will be lost in the storm. Good luck to the sailors on the ships that have to ride out this storm!

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