Winter weather wreaks havoc

By Carrie-Marie Bratley, in News · 13-02-2014 14:08:00 · 0 Comments
Winter weather wreaks havoc

The incessant rain and high winds that have lashed Portugal and its island regions have this past week caused serious damage and flooding throughout the country. Flights and football games were cancelled, freak waves were documented, crops have been destroyed and entire villages were left cut off from the rest of the country after many dozens of roads were engulfed by floodwater, snow and debris.

The week got off to a tempestuous start when Storm Stephanie raged through Portugal on Sunday night, bringing with it heavy rain and gale force winds.

That evening, Portugal’s Civil Protection service warned members of the public that being outside the safety of their homes between 6pm that night and 6am the following morning would be “a risk”.

That same evening, five flights had to be diverted from Lisbon’s Portela Airport to Faro and Madrid because of the blustery conditions, and as many more again were prevented from taking off.

Boat links across the Tagus River were cancelled as the water was too rough to sail, and hundreds of falling trees caused chaos after bringing down power lines and blocking roads.

Also that night, a packed Estádio da Luz stadium at a highly-anticipated football derby in Lisbon between the city’s top teams Benfica and Sporting had to be evacuated as the wind and rain blew debris from the roof on to the benches below.

It was a decision well made and disaster was narrowly averted after a number of metal and plastic roofing panels were blown onto the empty Estádio da Luz’s seats as the last few people were leaving.

The game was cancelled and finally took place two nights later, on Tuesday.

And Stephanie pretty much set the tone for the rest of the week, which has seen nonstop rain and strong winds torment the country.
As the week drew to a close at least 70 roads and pathways were still closed after being rendered unusable by the stormy weather.

The flooding, debris, landslides and snow that forced the roads to be shut meant in some cases entire villages, such as the dwellings of Reguengo do Alviela and Caneiras in Santarém, were isolated from the rest of civilisation.

Many thousands of people from north to south of Portugal called upon their local rescue services to help with the likes of fallen trees, smashed roofs and inundations, and reports suggest several were injured in the fierce storm.

Estimates by the Western Inter-professional Horticulture Association (AIHO) indicate that around 30 percent of crops in that region – Torres Vedras, Lourinhã and Peniche, – where more than half of national agricultural production is located, were destroyed by floods on Tuesday.

Also, during the course of this week, freak waves of 17 metres in height were observed in Sines, which the Portuguese Met Office (IPMA) categorised as an “extreme” and “rare” occurrence.

But it seems to pale when compared to the 25-metre waves forecast for the Azores on Thursday, when the IPMA placed almost the entire archipelago on Red Alert, the highest weather warning.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel as the IPMA has forecast a drier, brighter, if somewhat chillier week ahead.


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