06 December 2010

Snow melt + tides = flooding in Cherbourg

Rain is pouring down this morning. Not a deluge, but a steady rain that is slowly melting all the snow. It rained all afternoon yesterday. The high temperature was about 38ºF.

The deluge happened in the port town of Cherbourg, up on the northern extremity of the Normandy peninsula called Le Cotentin. That's an area that very rarely has any significant snowfall at all because of maritime winds that keep it relatively mild.

They say the big dump of snow that covered the area melted so fast, because of heavy rains that followed the snowfall, that the local river, La Divette, reached flood stage very quickly. Unfortunately, this is the time of year when the highest and lowest tides occur along the French coast.

There was what is aptly called a "flood" tide this weekend, just as it was raining the hardest and the snow was almost all melted. The tide caused the Divette to back up, and much of the center of the town was suddenly knee-deep in water. In some places it was waist-deep. The ground floor of many buildings was inundated. Cars were floating down the streets.

Click the forward arrow on the graphic to play the video.

People said they had never seen anything like this happen in Cherbourg, which normally benefits from what is called a temperate climate.

Nothing like this happened in Saint-Aignan over the weekend. I imagine the Cher River is nearly at flood stage, however, with all the melting snow and the steady rain. I didn't go out yesterday to see it, but I do plan to go to the supermarket today. It's been over a week since the last shopping trip.


  1. I confirm, we live 25km south of Cherbourg in the middle of the Cotentin. We got around 45cm of snow (unheard of around here) some local areas got up to 70cm!!!!
    What a weather mess!

  2. Hi Milkjam, I've been up to the Cotentin numerous times over the past dozen years because a woman I used to work with has a house in Carteret. Hope you didn't suffer any more than some inconvenience during this spell of extreme weather.

  3. WOW!!! Just watched the video -- YIKES!! That's a lot of flooding... Poor inhabitants...
    Glad you guys didn't get anything like that!!!!

  4. Ken, the bief out the back of the house is in full spate... we are near the bottom of the Aigronne [it joins the Claise at Grand Pressigny] with about 40km of river and its accompanying catchment area above us.
    Currently up about 25 - 30 cms.
    It is watering my baby willows nicely.

  5. Flooding is terrible. It reminds me of the one that happened in Draguignan recently.

  6. What a problem and the water is moving so fast carrying debris with it.

    I enjoyed listening to and watching the coverage about the flood and watched a few other news clips. Made me realize my french needs some work...

  7. Thank you for posting this - I would not have known about it otherwise. I feel terribly for the residents, especially in the cold weather. Hoping the waters subside quickly.

  8. I really feel for those poor pompiers in their wet suits paddling through water that can only just be above freezing. I used to live in a flood-prone house in York so I know what it's like as the water comes under the door. As the water rises, so does the panic.

  9. So I guess they really need Les Parapluies de Cherbourg.

  10. Yes, Starman, they certainly need those parapluies these days.


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