25 June 2013

Rare pictures of the great Danube flood in year 2002

In connection with the recent Danubian flood articles often mention the record-breaking 2002. August flood. Indeed that was also a great flood, but later, in 2006 it was followed by an even greater flood in the Danube-bend, Hungary. But how high was the water in 2002? Standing on the riverside it is hard to imagine the size of the flooded area. When the Danube fills its riverbed, a human eye can tell which is the bank and which is the river. When flooding – except for towns and cities – riverside lost its meaning, the sharp boundaries between water and solid ground fades away on meadows and riverine forests. In these cases flying over the river makes easier to understand the extent of the flooded area.

Lines of trees outline the old island cores on The Szentendrei Island

Miklós Gallé was on the right spot in the right time. On 17th august, 2002 he was on the way home with his Zlin-142 from a glider competition. He took off at Matkópuszta, Hungary. With a camera in hand he reached the Danube near the village Harta, where he was born. At this point he turned north and followed the dirty yellow river through Budapest towards the northernmost point, Esztergom and then over the Szentendrei Island back to the Dunakeszi airport. On his way he made pictures of the flooding Danube on black-white film. That is why these pictures look like as if taken in the ‘40s.
The flood in 2002 came unexpected. August is usually the time of low water, when the catchment area is exhausted; glaciers do not melt anymore and precipitation declines. Rainfall and snow-melting no longer supports creeks, streams, rivers. In august sand banks emerge from the river not rooftops. Meteorologist did not prognose rainfalls, therefore the heavy rains and flood arrived unexpectedly. On the Hungarian Upper-Danube gauging stations one after another measured record high water marks. Later it was surpassed by the 2006 flood. But until 2013, between Bratislava (Pozsony) and Esztergom the 2002 flood was the highest ever measured.

Water level in year 2002

The small hill of Lórév's Zichy chapel on the floodplain
The Great Island of Adony and the flooded Danube branch
Water fills the lowlands between Tát and Esztergom
Weekend houses of the Sólyom Island in Nagymaros
Kisoroszi is cut off from the rest of the Island
Paleo-holocene river patterns became visible on the Szentendrei Island
Croplands under water just north from Tahitótfalu
Dry core on the Szentendrei Island, in the back: the Luppa island

An ancient riverbed carries water once again west from Dunakeszi
These pictures were taken 17th august 2002, between 3-5 o’clock pm, one day before the culmination. The difference between the dates was 40 cm regarding the water level. 40 cm could mean a huge difference between the size of the flooded area, especially on plain terrain.

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