Spain cannot be said to be a country of moderation. Most things are done larger than life. Perhaps the level to which the Spanish seem to embrace life itself reflects the extremes of its climate.
The summer heat can be unforgiving. The summer is harsh here, even though it’s enjoyed by those escaping the less predictable climates of northern Europe. The winter can be sharp too for those living in central and northern Spain. And when it rains… it rains!
The extremes have perhaps never been so evident as at the end of September 2014. Having had one of the warmest Septembers ever, with children sweltering on their return to school, a week of deluge ended the month.
To use the word ‘deluge’ is not to exaggerate. In Cartagena there was a downpour of 100 litres per square metre in Serra 60 millimetres of rain fell in just an hour and in Torrevieja 23 litres per square metre fell in a matter of minutes.
Surprisingly most parts of the region have coped well. Walking on Torrevieja sea front the day after a major electric storm there was little to show for the previous night’s ‘tormenta’. Some mud on the roads and a few broken tree branches, but the area had generally cleaned up very nicely.
However, this wasn’t the case everywhere. Camposol in Murcia had suffered particularly badly. Not just because of the weather itself but because of man’s determination to prove that he/she can control it.
The Camposol predicament
Camposol is in the Mazarrón municipality and the southwest of Murcia. Part of this urbanisation, popular with expats, was built on a ‘rambla’. A rambla is an area of land through which water flows in times of excessive rain. The illegal development on this rambla means that the natural route for water to escape by has been removed. A fact which builders at the time were well aware of.
In order to make some allowances for this, the builders constructed three large tubes which were designed to take the excess water. However, during the storms in September, these man-made rambla-substitutes were just not enough and the water burst out around them finding its own way down the valley.
Its route took in a number of houses and streets with the result that sector D on the urbanisation was swamped by water, floating cars and even a swimming pool liner. The damage was extensive, but fortunately no one was hurt.
This might have been an isolated incident largely created by property developer greed. However, flooding is not unusual in Spain and disaster can strike even where the natural course of things has not been tampered with.
The rain in Spain
So why are the storms on the coast of Spain so aggressive and why do the streets flood the way they do? Covered in water one minute they can be back to dust within hours.
Some of the worst floods are likely to come at the end of the summer. After a long period without rain the ground is baked hard and the result is that when the first rains come, the capacity to soak up the water is very much reduced.
Added to this is the phenomenon of the Gota Fría. Cold air pushes down from the north and meets the warm, moist air along the coastline which has built up due to evaporation of water from the sea. As the two clash the result is a downpour of the kind that renders your brolly useless.
The storms can be very localised. Friends ten minutes down the road might not have an inkling that it’s raining at all. It can even happen that an area that has had no rain is suddenly submerged as travelling water hits a dry rambla bed. Such an event happened in Benidorm in October 2011. Two pensioners were tragically killed in a flash flood whilst attending a local market, again positioned on a rambla.
In the event of heavy rainfall– tips from EasySpain
- Whenever you visit Spain, there is always the possibility that you will get caught in the rain. It really shouldn’t be a problem, but just in case, EasySpain advises:
- If there is a heavy rainfall – don’t venture out unless you really have to – there is no point in getting yourself and your car stuck – and it does happen!
- Make sure any drains and guttering around your house in Spain are clear before September. It’s easy to forget how fast and furious the rain in Spain can be
- If the street is flooded don’t try and cross. You’d be surprised how much force even a foot of water can generate. You can easily lose your footing and there is always the risk of stumbling down an open drain as manhole covers can become dislodged
- If you think your home is likely to be flooded switch off water, gas and electricity at the mains, but remember if you are already standing in water don’t touch the electricity
- Wash your hands and anything else that has been in contact with flood water thoroughly – do not try to unblock drains yourself
- Watch out for sharp objects and other debris that might be carried away by flood water
- If you think you are in danger call 112
After all, water is a force to be reckoned with and should be treated with the utmost respect.
Mazarron council working through the night to clear Camposol Urbanisation:
Gota Fria hits Camposol in Mazarron municipality:
Why did heavy rains cause so much damage on Camposol D: