And you can tell that Xynthia is moving in. My barometer – a classical Torricelli – has been climbing steadily since last night. It now reads slightly under 735 mm or 940 mb. That’s bad, very bad. Because, contrarily to a conventional barometer, this means that the air pressure is going down and that a heavy storm front is coming in.
The worst storm I’ve ever lived in Belgium was on August 9th 1992. I was living in an apartment on the 4th floor facing South-West with a large open space in front of it. It had been a very hot summer’s day and the weather forecast had mentioned that there was risk of some thunderstorms overnight. Nothing alarming though! You know, your regular thunderstorm after a hot day.
I woke up at 2 o’clock in the morning with the winds and rain gushing against the windows. I went into the living room and put my hands against the double glazing of the large sliding doors that gave access to the terrace and felt them moving each time a wind gust hit the building.
The barometer at 11 a.m. today: between Heavy Rain and Storm and still climbing!
As all the rooms and windows were facing South-West, there wasn’t a place in the apartment that was not exposed to the storm. The wind was howling and the building was actually trembling. It was sticky hot and opening a window was certainly no option. I was scared to death that one of the windows would break and that I would get the glass thrown straight into my face. I therefore sought refuge in the hall. I took the cushions of the couch and tried to make myself a comfortable bed on the hallway floor. I closed all the interior doors and settled down. Of course, I didn’t sleep a wink. The wind kept howling and outside I heard some crashing noises.
By four o’clock the storm had finally blown over. It was still unbearably hot in the apartment and outside I heard people starting to run around. I opened the front door and bumped into my neighbour who said the garage, where we parked our cars and which was halfway under ground level, was flooded. Close to the building was a small park with 30 or so tall trees, 10 of which had simply snapped and fallen over. In the house across the street, the muddy water from a nearby field was coming in by the back door and coming our again by the front. When I walked into my living room I saw that the water had come in under the sliding doors. The wall-fitted carpet was soaked! This was also the case in the two bedrooms. Luckily the double glazing had resisted and nothing was actually broken.
The flooding of the garage hadn’t done any harm to the cars and I was able to go to work by eight. When I told my manager what had happened, he sent me home. “Go and clean up and open some windows so that your carpets can dry.” he said. It was a very nice gesture and I didn’t even have to take the day off and got paid as if I had been in the office all day.
In May 2001 I moved into my current apartment. Being on the ground floor means that the wind is less frightening and dangerous. However, heavy rainfall can cause the drains to overflow … Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that today!