Christmas Flood, 1717
"The snow is snowing/The wind is blowing/But I can weather the storm/Why do I care how much it may storm/I've got my love to keep me warm." When Irving Berlin wrote this classic Christmas tune in 1937, he certainly wasn't thinking of the Christmas Flood of 1717. Love, it turns out, offered little protection against the gigantic North Sea storm that brought massive flooding to the coast of northern Europe.
It was around 1 o'clock on Christmas morning when floodwaters first washed across a large swath of farms and cities stretching from Holland to Denmark. The raging torrent swept thousands of people right out of their beds and sent many more scrambling for the relative safety of trees and tall buildings. There they awaited rescue as severe thunderstorms, rain and hail continued to pound the soggy landscape until water levels reached as high as 10 feet (3.1 meters). It wasn't until the next morning that the storm began to weaken before mustering one last violent punch later that afternoon [source: Baart et al.].
By then, many of those who initially survived the floodwaters had perished from exposure. When skies finally cleared on Dec. 27, as many as 13,700 people were dead, and countless livestock and homes were lost [source: Sundberg]. It was one of the worst disasters not just on Christmas, but in all of modern European history.