When the Dikes Broke
The wind was screaming around their house, banging at the shutters and threatening the roof, when the Van Rossem family went to bed. They were accustomed to heavy winds, the house was strong and solid, and the dikes that held back the sea were strong too. But during the night they woke to the sound of shrieking sirens and clanging church bells. Even more frightening was the water splashing right inside the house.
That was the beginning of a night of terror, and dreadful days followed. People were swept off their roofs, and clung to anything they could find in hopes of being rescued. Through it all, the people of the Netherlands rallied to search for the missing, and the dike army worked non-stop to prevent further disaster.
Alta Halverson Seymour wrote this gripping tale a short five years after the great flood swept over the Netherlands on January 31, 1953—one of their worst floods in over five hundred years. Through it all, the Dutch people showed great courage reclaiming homes and farms, in an agelong battle against the sea. Twelve illustrations by Al Schmidt.
To see more of what really happened in the flood of 1953, watch this newsreel containing 20 minutes of footage on the flood aftermath. It was released to the Dutch people soon after the storm and is titled “The First Footage of the Storm Disaster”. You can read more extensively about floods in the Netherlands going back to 1404 at Deltewerkan (Delta Works) and from 838 at Wikipedia. Delta Works describes the 1953 storm conditions here, and states that the sea broke through 89 dikes covering 116 miles of Dutch coastline with wind speeds of gale force 9 (47-54 mph) measured for 20 consecutive hours.
Another great resource is Watersnood Museum.
Monument in the village of Wieringerwerf before and during the flood, showing the water level rising to the second floor of the buildings in the background, from Delta Works.