A Year: Day to Day Men: 11th of October, Solar Year 2018
Two Silver Rings
October 11, 1634 marks the night of the Burchardi Flood that struck the North Sea coast of North Frisia and Dithmarschen, now modern day Germany.
The Buchardi flood hit the northern-most coast of Germany during a weak economic time. A plague epidemic had spread across the land in 1603. Fighting had occurred between the inhabitants and the troops of Frederick III during the Thirty Years’ War, leading to the inhabitants defeat in 1629. This fighting caused great damage to the coastal protections against heavy weather.
Several floods had hit the coastline before the Burchadi incident. Large floating pieces of winter ice had already caused major damage to the dikes by 1625. The losses from the war and lack of ready resources led to insufficient maintenance of the dikes; even in the summer the dikes were failing.
The weather had been calm for weeks before the flood; however a strong storm began on the evening of October 11, 1634, heading ashore from the east. The winds turned southwest during the evening, developing into a extratropical cyclone from the northeast. The sea rose to the top of the dikes. Rain washed away soil from under houses, destroying them and washing away its occupants. Ships were left stranded on roadways.
The first dike broke in the Stintebull Parish on Strand Island at ten o’clock in the evening. By two o’clock in the morning, the water had reached its peak level, about thirteen feet above mean high tide levels. During the night the dikes broke at several hundred locations along the North Sea coastline of Schleswig-Holstein. Estimations of fatalities range from 8,000 to 15,000 people; however, there was an undetermined number of foreign workers in the area who could not be accounted for after the flood.
On Strand Island alone, at least 6,000 people lost their lives, two-thirds of the population of the island. Fifty thousand livestock were lost; the water destroyed 1,300 houses and 30 of the island’s mills. All twenty-one of the churches were heavily damaged, with seventeen completely destroyed. The entire new harvest was destroyed; and the island of Strand was torn apart into smaller islands, with two major portions of the island’s previous land submerged.
Large parts of the coastal land were flooded for weeks and months. Due to tidal currents, the breaches in the dikes increased and several dikes completely washed into the sea. Saline sea water submerged the fields, rendering them useless for agriculture. According to the Nordstrand dike law, any tenant who could not secure the land against the sea with dikes forfeited their right of owning land. Thus many of the surviving and now destitute farmers lost the right to their homes.