Capella hurricane

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Capella storm (first storm surge 1976)
Storm Hurricane ( Atlantic low , Jutland type ; Trogorkan )
Flood Very severe storm surge
education 1./2. January 1976
Tide peak January 3rd, evening
Core pressure 965 hPa ( 2./3.1. )
Water level NN + 6.45 m (level Hamburg-St. Paul , 3.1., In the evening )
Flood (since) the highest ever measured Stand ( Hamburg u. v. a., since 1825 )
affected areas North Sea coast , Elbe estuary , Weser estuary
Victim 82 fatalities
Damage amount 80 million DM in Germany
Named after the motor ship Capella

The Capella hurricane was a hurricane that passed through Central Europe on January 3, 1976 and was one of the strongest hurricanes of the 20th century. It caused great damage and killed 82 people. During the storm surge triggered by the hurricane, the extreme values ​​of the storm surge of 1962 were sometimes significantly exceeded on the German North Sea coast .

The storm is named after the ship Capella from Rostock , which sank off the Dutch coast with a crew of eleven.

weather condition

Development of the low pressure area

The Capella hurricane of January 3, 1976 was the climax of a stormy westerly wind that had been shaping the weather since December 8, 1975. The foundations for the formation of the hurricane low were laid on December 28, 1975, when very cold polar air from the Greenland area pushed far south on the back of a low pressure area withdrawing from the American east coast and at the same time very warm subtropical air was set in motion north through the Azores high has been. The extreme temperature contrasts led to the formation of a first hurricane low, which moved to northern Scandinavia and there reached its lowest core pressure of 955  hPa . This hurricane low influenced the weather in the European Arctic Ocean with its storm field on New Year's 1976.

On 1st / 2nd January 1976 there was another advance of polar cold air from the Canadian area over the North Atlantic, which led to the formation of a frontal wave, which, with steady deepening, moved from the sea area south-west of Ireland to Scotland and from there to the northern North Sea, where on the night of 2 On January 3, 1976 a core pressure of 965 hPa was reached. At the same time, there was a very strong increase in pressure on the back of the hurricane low, so that a very sharp air pressure gradient developed over the North Sea and polar cold air pushed far south.

In the morning hours of January 3, a new development occurred over the North Sea that was decisive for the course of the storm and the very strong storm surge it caused: After the start of the occlusion , the hurricane low did not move towards the Skagerrak and then towards the left, contrary to the normal left turn Northern Scandinavia, but followed a right turn and moved across Jutland towards the southeast. As a result, the very sharp air pressure gradient built up over the North Sea in the night from January 2nd to 3rd could not dissolve quickly, but persisted on January 3rd, 1976 and the resulting storm field significantly longer over the sea area of ​​the North Sea lingered. During this phase, a trough formed around noon on January 3rd, which led to a further increase in wind in the afternoon, which unfortunately coincided with the rising astronomical high tide.

Course of the storm

The storm field of the hurricane reached the German Bight in the early morning hours of January 3, after the core of the low pressure area had passed the west coast of Jutland. As is characteristic of hurricane lows with a train track shifted so far to the south, strong to stormy winds from the southeast appeared on the German North Sea coast in the run-up to the storm. While on January 3, 1976 around 1:00 a.m. in western Germany there were already stormy winds with hurricane gusts, there was a north-westerly storm over Great Britain and Ireland at this time.

With the passage of the warm front in the early morning hours, there was an abrupt wind shift in west to south-westerly directions over the North Sea and a dramatic increase in winds. Due to the very sharp air pressure gradient that had built up over the British Isles during the night, when the storm field passed in the area of ​​the German Bight, similarly high wind speeds were measured as during the Adolph Bermpohl hurricane in February 1967. However, the decisive factor was that that Storm field during the Capella hurricane, due to the south-east facing train path and the trough formation at noon on January 3rd, lingered significantly longer over the sea areas of the German Bight than was the case with the Bermpohl hurricane, which only led to a failure of the low tidal water.

Only three weeks later (20th / 21st of the month) there was another severe storm surge ( second January flood 1976 ), on February 23 a less severe one.

Course of the tide

The enormous force of the hurricane led to a previously unobserved tidal anomaly. After strong winds from the south-easterly direction prevailed on the front of the storm field, which led to a negative wind build-up and thus to low water levels at the gauges on the German North Sea coast, this changed after the passage of the warm front and the associated wind shift from west to north-west fundamental. The extremely high wind speeds completely prevented the morning floods from running down at many gauges. At the gauges in the Elbe region and in North Frisia there was practically no ebb at all, rather the water levels continued to rise. In the afternoon and evening were eventually flood values of Hamburg-St. Pauli : 6.45  m above sea level NN , Grauerort : 6.02  m above sea level NN , Büsum 5.16  m above sea level NN , Cuxhaven 5.1  m above sea level NN , and Husum 5.66  m above sea level. NN reached. Some of these were well above the previous extreme values. On the other hand, at the levels on the North Sea coast of Lower Saxony and in the Weser region, the previous extreme values ​​were either just reached or undercut. In total, the hurricane caused damage of around 450 million DM.

In Hamburg and at many other gauges, the Capella event represents the highest level ever recorded until the mid-2010s and has at least exceeded all floods since 1825 .


Disaster at sea

Coaster “Capella” (right) 1968 in Rostock

The coaster Capella, registered in Rostock and built in 1961, sank in the sea ​​area north-west of Borkum . After the Kümo 840 had a leak in the hurricane and became unable to maneuver, it capsized in the early evening hours of January 3 while attempting to call at the Borkum protective harbor in Hubertgat, a sea area of ​​the Westerems. Despite extensive search and rescue measures immediately initiated, all eleven crew members were killed in the sinking.

Schleswig-Holstein coastal area

On the Schleswig-Holstein coast, in the bays open to the northwest, the sea dykes were partially damaged, mostly by surf waves overflowing the dike, which caused the inland embankment to slide off. Was badly damaged u. a. the Hindenburgdamm , which on Friedrich-Wilhelm-Lübke-Koog has the function of a state protection dike. The railroad traffic had to be stopped here because of the washout of the tracks. Heavy damage was also caused to the dikes in Nordstrander Bay and in the northeast of Nordstrand. At Husum, the not yet reinforced Porrenkoog dyke was damaged by overflowing waves, as were the dyke sections at Westerhever and at Süderhöft south of Sankt Peter-Ording .

In Dithmarschen the dike in front of Christianskoog could not be held. The dike, which had not been raised because of the pre- dike construction in Meldorfer Bucht , broke after it had been flooded several decimeters high. 700 hectares of the 720 hectare Koog were flooded. Since residents and cattle had been evacuated from the Koog in good time, property damage remained here.

The Eider Barrage , which was inaugurated in 1973 and which effectively protected the course of the Eider with the town of Tönning from the storm surge, so that, in contrast to the 1962 storm surge, there was no damage here.

North Frisian Islands and Halligen

Langeneß during the Capella hurricane

On the Halligen, the storm surge caused significantly less damage than the storm surge in 1962 , although the record values ​​were exceeded. The shelters that have been built in the houses since then, as well as the raised sausages with their flattened slopes, provided adequate protection in many places. However, water penetrating into the houses caused water damage to furniture and houses on Oland , Gröde and Nordstrandischmoor .

On the north beach, the not yet raised dike of the Elisabeth-Sophien-Koog was severely damaged by overflowing waves. To the west and east of the Norderhafen on Nordstrand, the revetment protecting the dike was destroyed down to the sand core.

While there was only minor damage at Wyk on Föhr , there were large dune losses on Sylt and Amrum. In Hörnum a dune breakthrough emerged. Despite this damage, the beach clean-up carried out in previous years at Westerland in particular proved to be extremely effective. In contrast to the storm surges of 1962 and the Adolph Bermpohl hurricane of 1967, the Westerland beach wall was not damaged.

Schleswig-Holstein Elbe region

Stone in memory of the dike breach in Hetlingen in nine places

The water levels of the storm surge in 1962 were significantly exceeded in the entire Elbe region. As a result, there was severe damage, especially on the dyke sections that had not yet been raised. At St. Margarethen, the dike was badly damaged not only by overflowing waves, but also by large-sized debris. The houses built here in the dike were also heavily damaged. Massive revetments were partially destroyed. In the section between Holm and Hetlingen in the Haseldorfer Marsch , the dyke, which had not been raised due to a pre-dike under construction, overflowed and broke in a total of nine places over a total length of 480 meters. As a result of these dike breaches, around 3,600 hectares of land in the Pinneberg district were flooded with the villages of Hetlingen, Haselau and Haseldorf . Since the population in the affected area had been warned in good time, property damage remained. However, 55 residents had to be brought to safety by helicopter because they initially resisted the evacuation. 800 residents of the march were trapped by the flood, so that their supplies had to be done by air.

Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg

The flood caused by the Capella storm caused great damage in the port of Hamburg and in the outer dike area; the water levels were significantly higher than in the storm surge in February 1962 with over 300 dead. There was no significant dike damage because the storm surge protection in Hamburg had been greatly improved since 1962 .

Lower Saxony Elbe region

In the Elbe region in Lower Saxony, the storm surge caused some major damage to the dyke sections that had not yet been raised. The Kehdingen area was particularly affected, where the dike between Drochtersen and Assel broke in a total of ten places. These dike breaches flooded an area of ​​approx. 6000 hectares. Since this was also a bog marsh that was partially below sea level, the drainage of the flooded areas proved to be extremely difficult, especially since the dike broke open again during the storm surge of January 21, 1976 .

Major damage also occurred on the not yet sealed Elbe island Krautsand and in the Freiburg / Elbe area , where the city center was completely flooded.

Tributaries of the Lower Elbe

After the disturbance barrage at Wewelsfleth, the penultimate of a total of twelve barrages on the tributaries of the Lower Elbe, went into operation in 1975 , its protective function during the storm surge of January 3, 1976 became fully effective. Catastrophic damage, as occurred with the storm surge in 1962, did not occur in the catchment areas of the tributaries during this storm surge. Only in the catchment area of ​​the Wedeler Au , whose barrage was only completed in 1978, there was flooding.


The sea water level off the Dutch coast was 4.06 meters above normal. Here wind speeds of 10 up to hurricane strength were achieved on the Beaufort scale . Dykes and bank reinforcements were badly damaged, especially in West Friesland . Two people died due to the strong gusts of wind when a car was blown into the IJsselmeer on the final dike ; only the driver could save himself. On Ameland , parts of the beach and the Steinvoorte hotel were lost. Evacuation from Texel was considered because a polder threatened to flood. The province of Drenthe showed considerable storm damage. Here, about 6000 m³ of state forest and a total of probably 10,000 m³ of forest stand fell victim to the storm. At least ten people were killed in the North Sea. The “Capella” ran aground near Ameland and sank, the “Stardust” ran aground near 's-Gravenzande . At noon on January 3, the St. Bonifatius Church in Leeuwarden lost its spire, and the St. Anne Church in Amstelveen lost its entire roof. Numerous window panes were dented on the west coast and property damage was caused by blown trees. The national Dutch insurance company paid more than 20 million guilders for the storm damage.


In the province of Antwerp , the dikes broke at Walem and Ruisbroek, which led to major floods in the province. A week after the storm were the Scheldt basin still the two villages and Moerzeke underwater. As a result, the Sigma Plan was developed for Flanders in 1977 , which provided for heightened dikes and retention basins to protect this area .


Dikes broke on the west coast near the island of Rømø , so that several thousand people in Tønder and Ribe had to be evacuated at times. The sea level at Højer Sogn was 4.90 meters above normal.


England had 24 fatalities. Most of them were motorists who drove into fallen trees or got off the road due to gusts of wind. Forests were knocked down in half, high-voltage pylons were knocked down, roads flooded with heavy rain. The damage amounted to several hundred million euros.

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e Uwe Sönnichsen, Jochen Moseberg: When the dikes break . Husum Druck und Verlagsgesellschaft, Husum 1994, ISBN 3-88042-690-2 , pp. 33-37.
  2. a b c Heinrich Kruhl: Storm tide weather conditions in January 1976. In: The coast, no. 30, pp. 25-51. 1977
  3. Georg Duensing and Ernst Steinborn: Meteorological measurements during the storm surge weather conditions in January 1976 on the German coast. In: The Coast , H. 30, 1977, pp. 8-24. pagan
  4. see storm surge and level ,; Water levels and levels in Hamburg , poster,
  5. ^ A b c Fritz-Ferdinand Zitscher, Rudolf Scherenberg, Uwe Carow: The storm surges of January 3 and 21, 1976 on the coasts of Schleswig-Holstein . In: The coast . H. 33. pp. 71-100. Heath 1979
  6. ^ Website of the Drochtersen volunteer fire brigade : The history of the Drochtersen volunteer fire brigade ( Memento from June 13, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  7. Engineering Commission of the Lower Saxony Minister for Food, Agriculture and Forests: Experiences and conclusions from the January storm surges 1976 for coastal protection in Lower Saxony . In: The coast . H. 33, pp. 1-70. Heath 1979
  8. KNMI report 363 , p. 17 (Dutch), accessed on July 30, 2017 (PDF).
  9. De krant van toen of January 10, 1976: Three Belgische dorpen staan ​​week na storn nog altijd or water (Dutch), accessed on July 30, 2017
  10. Internet presence of the Sigma Plan (English), accessed on July 30, 2017.
  11. "Somewhere mutt dat woter jo hen". Der Spiegel from January 12, 1976, accessed on December 31, 2018
  12. KNMI Berlicht 363 , p. 18 (Dutch), accessed on July 30, 2017 (PDF).