Severe weather from 27./28. August 1955 - Unwetter vom 27./28. August 1955

The storm of 27./28. August 1955 was a severe weather catastrophe that struck all of Central Europe, killing at least 15 people in Germany alone and causing millions in damage from lightning, hurricane gusts, hail and floods.

Development of the weather situation

August 1955 was characterized by a dry period of several weeks with high summer temperatures, caused by a high pressure area stretching from the North Atlantic to Scandinavia. With this high weakening, a thunderstorm low could move from northern France to northern Germany on August 27, 1955. At its front it led very humid and highly unstable Mediterranean air to Central Europe, while at the rear significantly cooler air was brought in. In the transition area between the very hot subtropical air and the cooler air mass flowing in on the back of the low, extremely violent and very lightning-intensive thunderstorms with hailstorms, hurricane gusts and heavy rain formed from noon on August 27, which crossed Central Europe from west to east.


The federal states of Lower Saxony, Bremen, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein were particularly hard hit. Here alone 11 people were struck by lightning, including two farmers from the island of Neuwerk, who were on a horse-drawn carriage ride from the mainland to the island with a spa guest. [1] Since the weather forecast was still in its infancy, no severe weather warnings were issued, so many people outside of the gathering storm were surprised.

The main areas of damage were the districts of Hoya , Wesermarsch , Stade , Bremervörde and Holzminden . In the Steinburg district , 5 major fires broke out within an hour. A total of 40 farms, stables and farm buildings in northern Germany were completely destroyed by lightning strikes. Sometimes severe partial damage [2] . The property damage caused by the fires alone was estimated at over 5 million DM in 1955 - based on purchasing power at the time.

Whole livestock died not only in the farmsteads set on fire by lightning, but also in the pastures. In Schleswig-Holstein alone over 100 large cattle were struck by lightning in the pastures. In addition, hail and heavy rain led to floods. The Harz foreland was particularly badly affected by the flood, with a focus here in the Bad Harzburg area and the districts of Hameln and Holzminden. In the places Eschershausen , Scharfoldendorf , Stadtoldendorf and many smaller places in the district, flash floods rolled down from the mountain slopes and flooded the settlement areas. In Eschershausen some houses were totally destroyed; a fully occupied cinema had to be evacuated with the help of boats.

Many people in the Holzminden district could only be rescued from their flooded houses by boat. The Vorwohle-Emmerthal railway line became impassable due to a landslide. In Kirchbrak, a woman was killed when she was washed off a bridge by a tidal wave. In Warmsen a man drowned in the basement of his house. There was also one fatality in Hameln [3] . In Neuhermsdorf, a barrack camp was destroyed by a landslide; here masses of debris piled up, some meters high [4] .

In Tettau , the owner of a barn that caught fire burned after lightning struck the permanently installed threshing machine there [5] .

Further serious damage was caused to the telephone and power supply facilities that were still installed as overhead lines. The failure of the power supply and the telephone connection due to lightning and falling trees meant that both siren alarms and telephone alarms for the fire departments were not possible in the villages and the fire departments were often too late to arrive at the scene of the fire.


The very high damage caused by the storm of 27./28. August 1955 resulted in extensive official investigations. The then completely inadequately equipped fire brigade, the lack of well-developed access roads to the individual farmsteads and an inadequate water supply turned out to be a major problem. The fire brigades arrived at the scene of the fire very late and, because they did not yet have tank fire engines at that time, were not able to start fighting the fire as soon as they arrived at the scene , but had to establish the water supply over long distances. During the major fire at Heidehof in Wedel, for example, the fire brigade had to organize the extinguishing water supply with bucket chains [6]. To improve fire protection in rural areas, many fire brigades were equipped with tank fire engines in the following years. The agricultural roads and the road network in rural areas were also expanded as part of the improvement measures .

The large number of major fires caused by lightning strikes indicated technical problems in the area of ​​lightning protection. The criminal investigation into major incidents in what was then the Oldenburg administrative district revealed that most of the destroyed buildings have recently been re-covered with thatchhad been covered. The reed was fastened with wire instead of cane as before. As a result, the lightning could set the roof on fire despite the presence of a lightning rod, as it penetrated the roof covering over a large area via the wiring of the reed at individual contact points between the lightning rod and the built-in wire and set the entire roof on fire within a very short time could. This result of the investigation prompted the responsible state fire insurance companies, as insurers, to carry out a comprehensive inspection of the lightning protection in view of the very high damage [7] .


Individual evidence

  1. The sky in flames - eleven people killed by lightning strike - severe storms over northern Germany In: Hamburger Abendblatt, No. 200 of August 29, 1955
  2. Lightning traps in the villages - dangerous reed roofs - storm damage in Lower Saxony is being investigated. In: Hamburger Abendblatt, No. 202 of August 31, 1955.
  3. Drowned in the cellar: The heavy cloudbursts in the Weserbergland. In the dinghy from the cinema . In: Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung: No. 201 of August 30, 1955.
  4. “On the trail of the Flood in the Lennetal”. In: Daily Anzeiger Holzminden of August 26, 2005.
  5.;art1054,2582521 Tettauer fire brigade active for 75 years . In: Lausitzer Rundschau from June 27, 2009
  6. The sky in flames - eleven people killed by lightning strike - severe storms over northern Germany In: Hamburger Abendblatt, No. 200 of August 29, 1955
  7. Lightning traps in the villages - dangerous reed roofs - storm damage in Lower Saxony is being investigated. In: Hamburger Abendblatt, No. 202 of August 31, 1955.