Dutch storm surge barriers close; Hard winds bring high seas

Truck rollover crash closes part of the A2 between Amsterdam and Utrecht
A truck with a double-trailer rolled over near Breukelen on the A2 between Amsterdam and Utrecht. January 3, 2018.photo: Rijkswaterstaat / RWS_verkeer / Twitter

By 2:50 p.m., all five storm gates were closed, or in the process of closing. It is the first time they were all shut at the same time.

Strong winds and high seas in the Netherlands on Wednesday forced the closure of two storm surge barriers around Rotterdam and another in Zeeland. The Maeslantkering, said to be one of the three largest moving structures in the world, protects the second largest city in the Netherlands from flooding.

Scheduled for closure at 2:10 p.m., the Maeslantkering had not closed since a late night storm on November 8, 2007. That was the first time a storm triggered its closure since it went operational in an inauguration ceremony led by Queen Beatrix. 

Meanwhile, the nine-kilometer Oosterscheldekering in Zeeland was closed for the first time in three years. Also the Hartelkering and HollandscheIJsselkering, both in Zuid-Holland, were expected to close respectively at 11:40 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., Rijkswaterstaat said. They protect some of the lowest lying parts of the Netherlands from water, the latter of the two being the first storm surge barrier built as part of the ambitious Delta Works water management plan of the mid 20th century. An update from the Dutch infrastructure management agency at 1:45 p.m. noted that the Hartelkering was still in a safe position and could be closed later in the day.

Throughout the country the storm was causing dangerous traffic situations with wind-swept  debris and strong gusts. A tree blown over onto the A6 highway near Rutten at about 11:30 a.m. quickly brought emergency crews to the area. Two lanes on the A2 from Utrecht to Amsterdam were closed when a truck blew over. These are just two reports out of hundreds of storm damage notifications called into emergency services on Wednesday morning.

The fire department in the Utrecht region had already received 125 storm damage reports by late Wednesday morning.

Despite this, traffic information service VID said it does not expect major problems during evening rush hour. "But it only has to go wrong in one place for everything to get stuck", a spokesperson said to RTL Nieuws. "The advice is not to go on the road with a trailer."

The NS national train service was also facing limited weather related problems. The high speed rail line between Rotterdam and Breda is down until at least 1:00 p.m. Fewer trains were traveling between Amsterdam, Zaandam and Alkmaar, between Den Haag and Rotterdam, and between Dordrecht and Breda due to the weather.

As of 11 a.m., a total of 176 flights at Schiphol were canceled. That number will keep on increasing, a spokesperson said to RTL Nieuws. Travelers are advised to check their flight status before leaving for the airport.

Several ferries between Den Helder and Texel ferries were delayed or canceled because of the winds, the ferry company said on Twitter. 

Amusement park Efteling closed all its outside rollercoasters due to the strong winds. The Python, Joris en de Draak, and Baron 1898 will be closed for the rest of the day.