(The Forgotten) Storm Surge of 1916

Schellingwoude village under water
Schellingwoude village under water

The storm surge of 1916 was a flood which took place during the night of January 13 and 14, 1916 in the Netherlands around the Zuiderzee. The storm surge coincided with a high discharge in the rivers. Resulting in dozens of broken dikes and in many places there was also damage to inside lining of the dikes. In the province of Noord-Holland were 19 deaths, while at several shipping disasters at sea, another 32 people died. Queen Wilhelmina visited the affected areas.

There was extremely high water along the Zuiderzee before the disaster by a persistent northwesterly wind. Days of rain also affected the badly maintained and weakened dikes. A veering north wind drove in the morning of February 14, 1916 water over the Waterlandsche Zeedijk, which broke at Katwoude. The whole region of Waterland, ran under water, between Zaandam, Purmerend and Edam to the IJ in Amsterdam-Noord water could be found. The various polders and ring dikes had gone largely under.

Ransdorp 1916
Ransdorp 1916

The Purmer and Wijdewormer polders were dry, and the same happened to the dikes along the IJ and the Zuiderzee. The low point was reached when two men drowned on February 18 in the Buikslotermeer polder* (Buiksloter Lake polder) when they could no longer hold on to a telephone pole. Among the refugees in the church of Buiksloot a little girl of four slipped into the water and drowned. Additional livestock, (domestic)animals and goods disappeared in the waves. The island of Marken with its low embankments flooded, here were 16 fatalities.

cd3f44b41745a8c3316cb21ab0a5cf52019c5811Mr. G. Vissering, president of De Nederlandsche Bank (Dutch National Bank), wrote in Algemeen Handelsblad that the Netherlands should start with Plan Lely, which would close off the Zuiderzee. The Zuiderzee Association organized an exhibition in Amsterdam shortly afterwards. Ir. Lely filed on September 9, 1916 its final draft of the plan that carries his name.

This disaster coupled with the shortage of food during the First World War led to the creation of the Zuiderzee Statute. The dike reinforcements carried out in response to the disaster, were completed in 1926. In 1932 the Zuiderzee was ‘tamed’ by the construction of the enclosing dam. So the Zuiderzee became Lake IJssel.

The northern parts of nowadays Amsterdam became part of the city in 1921, before that time it was a mix of villages, some of them older than Amsterdam.

It is called  The Forgotten Storm Surge because in 1953 another Storm Surge, this time in Zeeland, cost more lives and resulted in the Delta Works.

*The same polder I live in, or should I say the building is on the bottom of the lake. In case the surge would happen again my home would have 3 feet of water in the livingroom. And I’m on  second floor (EU) which is the third floor (US)!

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