Deadly storms hit Italy: worst flooding in Venice in a decade

Flooding in Venice, Italy on October 29, 2018. (Photo: @poliziadistato on Twitter)

Italy just got hammered by intense storms that caused the worst flooding in the city of Venice in ten years, and produced tornadoes and wind damage. At least 11 people have died across the country, with several injured.

At its highest point on Monday (October 29), the tide in Venice rose to more than five feet above sea level before receding. The city, built on a series of islands, frequently floods when high winds push in water from the lagoon, but Monday’s event was extraordinary. The peak level was the highest reached since December 2008, according to Venice statistics, and it’s the fourth-highest level ever recorded. The record high was in 1966, when waters rose to nearly six and a half feet above seal level.

About 70 percent of the city was flooded by Monday. Tourists and residents wore high boots to get through the streets, and the water was waist-high on many people, making rescues difficult for first responders. Stores and restaurants were inundated as barriers placed across doorways failed to hold back the rising tide. Shopkeepers used buckets to try to remove the water which also rose above the raised walkways across the city. Transport officials closed the water taxi system, except to outlying islands. Schools closed, and roads were blocked by flooding or downed trees.

Chief Angelo Borrelli of the Civil Protection Agency told NBC news on Tuesday that “It was the perfect storm during which adverse meteorological conditions contributed to the situation in the sea and winds.”

A lake of flood water covered the expansive St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), spilling across ancient marble floors in its basilica. The popular tourist attraction was closed Monday afternoon. Mosaic flooring near the entrance of the basilica was under almost three feet of water for 16 hours, which also soaked the monumental bronze doors, columns, and marbles.

“The church has a structure made of bricks which, drenched in salt water, deteriorate even to a height of several meters, endangering the mosaics that adorn the vaults,” Carlo Alberto Tesserin, head of the board responsible for St. Mark’s Basilica, told CNN today.

Even worse than the economic toll is the death toll. According to a BBC report eleven people across Italy – among them a volunteer fireman, a fisherman, and a 21-year-old student – have been confirmed dead from falling trees, tornadoes, and landslides across Italy. At least ten other people have been injured.

Back in Venice a spokesman for the office of Mayor Luigi Brugnaro stated to CNN that conditions have calmed down, and that “Everything is under control, just as it was last Friday.”

However, rain is back in the forecast for Venice tonight and Thursday, with a thunderstorm possible. This isn’t expected to cause major flooding, but a longer dry spell would be a tremendous help to everyone cleaning up after Monday’s mess.

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Nick Austin, Director of Weather Analytics and Senior Meteorologist

In his 17 years of weather forecasting experience, Nick worked on air at WBBJ-TV and WRCB-TV, including time spent doing weather analysis and field reporting. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from Georgia Institute of Technology. Nick is also a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” for eight consecutive years. Nick earned his National Weather Association Broadcasting Seal in 2005.