Is High Water a true story? The real-life flood detailed

By Chege Karomo — ON Oct 10, 2022
High Water

Netflix’s High Water chronicles the disastrous consequences of the Polish government’s ignorance of warnings about an impending record-breaking flood. Jasmina Tremer, a hydrologist based in Wroclaw, a city bordering the Oder River, alerts authorities to the possibility of a flood, citing the alarming rise in water levels. 

However, the Polish government seems more interested in the Pope’s visit rather than the looming danger. The warnings show that the flood will wreck previously unheard-of havoc, but authorities opine that the existing safeguards can protect property and prevent the loss of life. 

Unfortunately, the government’s gamble backfires as a once-in-a-millennium natural disaster descends upon Poland. 

High Water chronicles a fictionalized story based on the 1997 Millenium Flood

The story and characters in High Water are fictionalized, but the series is based on the 1997 Millenium Flood. The calamity affected the Czech Republic, Poland, and Germany. 

In 1997, a zone of low pressure traveled from northern Italy to Moravia and Poland. The low-pressure area remained over Poland for longer than expected, where it encountered hot air from the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. 

Consequently, southwestern Poland and northeastern Czech Republic experienced several months’ average rainfall in a few days. The water level was so high it exceeded existing measuring poles. The Poles named it the Millenium Flood as the likelihood of such a flood was 0.1%. 

Towns on the path of running water were destroyed, including Wroclaw, the city where Tremer works in High Water. Water covered 40% of Wroclaw during the flood’s peak. 

The people and government responded brilliantly – they laid over 50 kilometers of barriers to protect the town’s historical buildings and treasures. The government evacuated over 162,000 people over an area spanning 400,000 hectares. Sadly, 114 people died due to the flood. 

The flood caused an estimated $4.5 billion in damages, making it one of the most disastrous floods in Polish history. Anna Kepinska, the show’s creator, said the showrunners didn’t care much about historical accuracy.