Floods in Hérault, France October 2019. Credit: Pompiers 34 Hérault
Floods in Hérault, France October 2019. Credit: Pompiers 34 Hérault

by Richard Davies, floodlist

October-November 2019 were the worst months in terms of number of notifications issued since the beginning of EFAS in 2012. There were in total 54 formal, 39 informal and 587 flash flood notifications issued during the period, most of them in November. This article focuses on southern Europe, which were hit by a series of storms and floods during the period October to November 2019, with Italy, southern Spain and southern France particularly badly affected.

Mid October

Torrential rain from 21 October triggered flooding in Italy, southern Spain and southern France. In Italy, one person died and many were evacuated after flooding in Alessandria Province, Piedmont. Piedmont Regional Agency for Environmental Protection (ARPA) reported 253mm of rain fell in 12 hours in Casaleggio Boiro on 22 October. The Bormida river in Alessandria jumped from 1.2m on 20 October to over 7.5m on 22 October.

During the same period at least 3 people died in flooding in Catalonia, Spain. Emergency services received hundreds of calls for assistance and over 50 sections of roads were blocked. Prades in Baix Camp, recorded 287.4mm of rain in 24 hours on 23 October, according to Servei Meteorològic de Catalunya (Meteocat).  Meanwhile in France severe flooding hit Hérault department. Firefighters said they rescued 1,000 people from floods on 23 October. Meteo France reported 243mm of rain in a 24-hour period to 23 October at Béziers-Courtade. Three weather-related fatalities were reported by France's Interior Ministry.

Flood damage in Catalonia, 23 October 2019. Credit: Civil Protection, Catalonia
Flood damage in Catalonia, 23 October 2019. Credit: Civil Protection, Catalonia

Early to Mid-November

Into early November and heavy rain from “Storm Amelie” triggered flooding from the Vara and Petronio rivers in Liguria in Italy.  In France, a woman died in a landslide that struck near her home in southern Nice on 03 November. A week later and severe weather hit Italy again, with firefighters responding to wind damage, landslides and floods in Calabria, Sicilia, Puglia and Basilicata from 11 to 13 November.

Flooding in Venice received widespread media attention after a high tide of 1.87 metres on 11 November - the highest in 50 years - left wide areas of the historic city underwater. Further high tides meant the flooding continued for several days after.

Days later and more heavy rain in northern Italy caused the Idice River to break its banks in the municipality of Budrio, Bologna Province, on 17 November. Around 300 people were evacuated.

Late November

In France at least 4 people died and hundreds evacuated after flooding in Var and Alpes-Maritimes departments from 23 November. Emergency services carried out more than 2,300 interventions. The town of Roquebrune-sur-Argens in Var Department was only accessible by boat or helicopter after levels of the Argens river jumped from around 3 metres to 7.12 metres on 23 November.

In Italy heavy rain triggered a landslide near Savona in Liguria Region on 24 November, demolishing part of a motorway viaduct. In Piedmont Region, one person died after a vehicle was swept away by flood waters from the overflowing Bormida River in Sezzadio Municipality, Alessandria Province. In the Lombardy Region, the River Ticino burst its banks causing flooding in the of Pavia, prompting flood rescues.

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