Edition 1471
21 April 2018
Edition: 1471

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“Rare” winter weather batters Portugal

by Carrie-Marie Bratley, in News · 24-01-2013 09:31:00 · 0 Comments

Portugal is slowly recovering from a week-long battering by some of the most fearsome weather experienced in recent history. The “rare winter phenomenon”, which set in late last week, reached a climax on Saturday and resulted in death, widespread destruction, and millions of euros in damage.

“Rare” winter weather batters Portugal

The bout of bad weather continued well into the middle of this week, bringing with it the first snowfall of 2013 on Tuesday (22 January), forcing a number of schools and roads to close in northern Portugal.
That same day the Portuguese Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA – Met office) maintained a Red Alert along the stretch of coast north of Lisbon.
Red Alert is the severest of IPMA’s weather warnings, described as a “weather situation of extreme risk”, for which citizens should keep “regularly updated of the evolution of conditions” and follow the National Civil Protection Authority’s safety recommendations.
Also, at 6am on Tuesday, the European Storm Forecast Experiment (ESTOFEX) issued a Level 1 Severe Weather warning, lasting 24 hours, for that same stretch of northern Portuguese coast while the European Severe Weather Database forecast severe winds in excess of 25 metres per second.
ESTOFEX said: “A level 1 was issued for NW Iberia mainly for strong winds threat.”
The weekend’s abnormal weather was described by the national Met Office as a “rare winter phenomenon”, which registered winds of up to 140 kilometres an hour and elevated the sea level.
Sightings of nineteen-metre waves were reported in Nazaré and the Hydrographical Institute in Sines received readings from its equipment of 17.5-metre waves, the highest figure in 25 years.
“This type of phenomenon is not very common, it is a winter phenomenon. It has happened before in Portugal” a source from the IPMA said, making reference to a similar bout of stormy conditions in December 2009.
After the bad weather set in at the end of last week the number of districts placed on Red Alert by the IPMA almost doubled overnight, rising from eight on Friday (18 January) to fifteen on Saturday (19 January).
Southern Portugal escaped the brunt of the stormy conditions, but still suffered from widespread power cuts and fallen trees.
However, central and northern Portugal were dealt the full blow of the “rare phenomenon”, resulting in flights being diverted from the airports in Lisbon and Oporto, and ferry and train transport being temporarily suspended.
It was on Saturday that the formidable Mother Nature unleashed her full force; the destruction caused in Sintra was described as “the worst natural catastrophe of the past 50 years.”
Thousands of trees, some of them centuries old, were ripped up from the roots and littered across the renowned historic town. Access to some of Sintra’s most popular monuments was blocked by the strewn debris, which is expected to take weeks to clear and cost between €2 and €3 million to repair.
Also on Saturday a freight ship became beached south of Torreira beach, Murtosa.
Early reports are that the Cook Islands-registered vessel, the Merle, ran ashore after water got into the engine room, causing it to drift.
The vessel was en-route from the UK to Huelva, Spain and at the time of becoming stricken was sailing in “very adverse maritime conditions”, according to Aveiro Port’s Captaincy.
The Merle’s owners have been notified to remove any fuel from the ship, and have 30 days after receiving that notification to put forward a plan for removing the 84-metre-long vessel.
As well as many millions of euros in damage caused to greenhouses and crops across the country the weather also injured 21 people, two seriously, and left 46 people homeless, according to the National Civil Protection Authority (ANPC).
Two tourists were seriously injured after a tree fell on them in Sintra.
The weather also claimed the life of an 85-year-old man who died in Abrantes after being projected by the wind through the gate of his property onto the ground.
More than eight thousand incidents were reported to the ANPC as a result of the chaotic weather, the majority of them involving fallen trees.

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Edition 1471
21 April 2018
Edition: 1471

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.

Twitter

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