The Flood Disaster of February 8th 1946

The river Emmer, which nowadays passes Luegde ever so peacefully, is not always as it appears at first sight: a glance at the past shows clearly, how dangerous the river can be in case of high water.

Since its founding as a fortified city around 1245, Luegde has been flooded several times. The low position in a valley basin and designed as a medieval fortress town surrounded by water through the river Emmer and a moat have caused many floods in the past centuries. Because of the floods, especially those in the years 1539, 1659, 1753 and 1768 causing major damages in the city and its surroundings, it was evident that only sound city walls would save the town from greater harm. Therefore, many requests by towns’ people to the city council can be found, to maintain city walls and gates because of the danger of flooding. But even the city walls could not always hold back the water so that the city was flooded several times as in the year 1946.

January 1946 was especially frosty. Additionally, a lot of snow came down on the chilly earth. However, at the beginning of February 1946 thaw started and the vast amounts of snow began to melt. In just a few days, all the streams and tributaries brought so much water to the Emmer, that the river overflew its banks and flooded large stretches of land.

At the beginning of the second week of February those areas well known to the danger of flooding inside the city (like Kanalstraße, An der Stadtmauer, parts of the Hintere and Vordere Straße) and the lower areas, were under water as many times before. It continued to rain and the water in the city started to rise slowly but steadily.

The water rises higher and higher

On Monday Evening more than half of the town was covered in water. But at least it had stopped raining, the water began flowing off and the people of Luegde started to hope that the worst was over. On Friday 8th however, it started to rain heavily again, which caused the Emmer to rise threateningly, eventually so much that a lot of water entered through the Mühlenhoftor into the city and flooded the lower parts of the Hintere and Mittlere Straße. Around 15 o’clock everywhere in the city was water, though many streets could still be used with the help of rubber boots.
But outside the city walls the danger increased because the water rose higher and higher. More and more water came from the south into the “Little Emmer” until the old town was surrounded completely by water.

Up until that day, the height of the city walls was considered to be enough, a deception, as became clear at a very early stage. At first the water only came over the wall at the Hägenschen Tor (Seilerstraße), because here was the lowest point of the wall. But then the barriers at the “Oberen Tor” and at the “Brückentor” were flooded as well.

The darkness fell by then and around 18 o’clock parts of the city wall gave in to the pressure of the water near to where the Wichernhaus can be found today. The water now poured unhindered into the town and in just half an hour the city was flooded to the coping. Only with great difficulty people were able to bring the most necessary upstairs in such a short period of time.

Nobody could save the cattle

Indescribable scenes must have happened in those houses in which cattle were held as well. Most of the animals were chained up and were screaming in fear of death. But hardly anyone was able to save them because of a temporary power blackout many stables and houses lay in complete darkness.

Around one hour before midnight the flood reached its highpoint of 2.50 meters. Afterwards the water level outside the city walls receded. Due to the city walls the water level inside was higher than outside the city walls for a short period of time. But the water found its way outside somehow. The city wall near the benefice (between the city’s mill and the convent) collapsed under the pressure of the water. This is why most of the water ran off at around one in the morning of February 9th with a great roar.

The day After the Flood

As the terror of the night gave way to daylight, the extent of the destruction became visible. In barges, old tubs and large wooden feeders survivors made contact with neighbors and residents living in adjacent streets to supply each other with food. Only during the late afternoon hours the streets were partly freed from water. In the city center over 200 heavy livestock lay dead in the stables or on the streets, as well as many pigs and small livestock.

All of the rooms on ground level of 300 houses in the city center were uninhabitable. Cupboards, cabinets and shelves were knocked over. All supplies were destroyed, contaminated and inedible and lay all over the place. Everything was covered in 5 cm of mud – no room, no furniture was spared of it. In many houses the half-timbered walls were dented and fractured. The streets were cluttered with stones, mud, muck and wood. The overall damage was estimated to well over one million Reichsmark.

City walls guarantee Flood Protection

The city council drew consequences very soon after the catastrophe of February 8th in 1946. Already in 1952, the old bridge over the Emmer was built from the ground for 200,000 German Mark. A new pumping station was built behind the benefice, which could pump down the surface water from the city as well as from the “Little Emmer” when in danger of flooding. With great effort the whole city wall was refurbished in 1988. Moreover, while planning and constructing the bypass road, flood protection was taken into account and realized.

Even today flood markers (et al. at the fortified tower by the bridge gate) remind of the events during the flood.