On November 16 last year a freak tornado ripped though the Algarve counties of Lagoa and Silves, causing unprecedented destruction and mayhem. One-year-on, with new Mayors in power, the municipalities have now fixed most of the damage caused by what weather experts predict could become an increasingly regular phenomenon.
It was around 1pm on Friday 16 November, 2012 when the sky turned black over Lagoa and Silves.
Unusually, Silves that morning had seen heavy hailstones. As the winds gained strength a tornado formed out at sea, making landfall just west of the coastal village of Carvoeiro (Lagoa).
Carving its way inland, the twister scraped first through Lagoa then through Silves, leaving a clear-cut path of obliteration in its wake.
The worst-affected areas of Lagoa – the Sés Marias neighbourhood in Carvoeiro and the Lagoa Sol urbanisation in the city – still bear the marks of Mother Nature’s wrath, as does Silves, where repairs to the municipal swimming pool have yet to be finished.
New Silves Mayor Rosa Palma took over from her predecessor, Rogério Pinto, on 21 October this year, following local elections. At the same time incumbent Lagoa Mayor Francisco Martins was elected and sworn in that same month, on 14 October.
“We can say that the city has recovered from the fright” Rosa Palma told The Portugal News.
Commenting on the tornado’s aftermath she recalled: “The trail of destruction was enormous and the losses were immense. However, thanks to the efficient and effective action by municipal services, the important collaboration of various parishes and collectives, and the tireless help of the local and surrounding populations, it was possible to clear the whole of Silves in a blink.”
Describing this collective effort as “an example of civic participation, of solidarity, of union and of helping one another”, she feels the people of Silves had “the power to ward off neighbourhood enmity and rivalry” to work together towards a greater cause.
While most municipal buildings in Silves, which bore the brunt of the tornado, have been repaired, “sadly the same cannot be said about the Municipal Swimming Complex”, whose roof was ripped off by the twister.
Mayor Palma expects work on the pool to be complete by the end of this year.
The scars of the tornado are also still visible in Lagoa; The Portugal News approached the local authority for an update on the matter but the council was unable to provide any information by the time of going to press.
Classified by Portugal’s Met Office as a ‘moderately devastating’ tornado, the cyclone reached wind-speeds of up to 270 kilometres per hour and travelled 31 kilometres over land.
It caused in excess of €5 million in damage to the two counties.
Thirteen people were injured in the storm; one woman died from her injuries a month later.
The national Met Office recently announced that it is looking into the possibility that thunderstorms and extreme weather phenomena could become more regular occurrences.
It said it is working towards reinforcing observation networks to predict episodes up to half-an-hour before they happen.