2 Oct 2012

In Alicante when it rains...

 ... it POURS! :o( 

Welcome to the meteorological event known locally as the Gota Fría, or "cold drop". It's a weather phenomenon that happens every few years along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, and one that has everyone on edge every year when September morphs into October. Basically it's this huge rain storm... of the kind that drops more water in a couple of hours than we typically get in a whole year! It happens in years when the atmospheric temperatures drop much faster than the sea temperature (i.e. when the air cools down quickly but the sea is still warm). Very humid warm air at the sea's surface rises and cools too quickly when it reaches the cooler layers of the atmosphere, resulting in an intense rainfall accompanied by high winds. In many areas this also results in flashfloods along usually dry riverbeds...

Meteosat's satellite image Friday Sept 28

Bridge on the A-7, image from rtve.es
This year the consequences in Alicante itself weren't too bad since we'd already had an afternoon and a night of "light" rain which moistened the hard ground making it capable of absorbing some of the storm rain. In other years when it hasn't rained before a "gota fría" the ground is so dry and hard it can't absorb any water (acts like concrete!) and the water just rushes along downhill... But in the southern part of the province there was some serious flooding, and in Murcia (100km south of us) a section of the highway (a bridge) fell apart and in some towns homes are destroyed and people dead. So again, we got lucky in Alicante. (Our last really bad one was on Sept 30th 1997, I was "trapped" up on Campus and couldn't get home).

When you watch it all from the safety of home it's quite mesmerising really... I spent a long time just leaning at the window listening to the rain and trying to make out any sign of Alicante or the Mediterranean through the curtain of water.

That and watching the swirling water in the street below us...

It was amazing how, once the storm neared its end, the rain cleared up quite quickly! Just leaving us with signs if run-off in the nearby beach (muddy waters) and gorgeous skies over the castle:

Alicante = Mexico! (from diarioinformacion.com)
The video at the beginning was taken towards the end of the storm (18h40), although it rained for another hour or so it wasn't too bad. It started raining during lunchtime, and as it got worse I thought "so much for poor Ridley Scott and his movie!". Yeah, remember my post last Thursday when I was all excited about that filming sequence downtown? And I was going to go check it out? Well around here if you value your life when one of these storms starts you STAY PUT! So I spent the rest of the afternoon with my parents (had gone over for lunch), alternating between watching the storm and watching TV, before heading home in the evening. But it turns out it takes more than a little rain to stop Ridley Scott! They had the Ayuntamiento all decked out as a Mexican court house and shot some scenes just before the storm hit, filmed the stuff with Michael Fassbender inside while it was pouring down outside, then finished up when the rain ended! I'm sad I missed out, but oh well! If you want to check out a few more pictures and video (and get details if you can read Spanish) here's the article in the local paper.

Oh, and this is what one of our beaches (the Albufereta) looked like on Saturday:

In fact, that happens almost EVERY time we have a big rainstorm (they just keep rebuilding the beach). Why does this beach keep getting destroyed by the storms? Because it's at the mouth of a dry riverbed! Once upon a time (as in when the Romans lived here) this used to be a small bay where a river met the sea, with a Roman harbour and a Roman settlement on a nearby hill. Weather patterns changed, dams were built... the river dried up, the beach formed, and that was that! Except whenever there's a heavy rainstorm (and not just during a Gota Fría) the water finds its way back down the river bed... and during a Gota Fría, well it's much worse! In 1997 this bridge was under water...

We needed rain in Alicante... but not that much all at once! On the plus side for me, we had beautiful skies as a result and Sunday's hike (more on that another day) was absolutely gorgeous!!! ;o)


  1. Well that just wrecked that beach. Do they go down with plows and smooth it out again?

    1. Yup, every time! Usually a few days later it's all fixed up. Eventually they'll have to add sand... :s

      Funny thing: looking through iPhoto I noticed I have almost the exact same shots taken last November! Every time there's a massive storm... this beach looks exactly the same!

  2. How exciting! But such destruction from so much rain all at once, Cris. Interesting history lesson! :-)

    1. It's the literal problem of "when it rains, it pours"! This is a frequent problem in arid or semi-arid areas. Rain is very scarce and comes in sudden bursts. It could have been worse! We were lucky there had been a couple of light showers in the previous days which softened up the ground...

      Glad you enjoyed the history lesson! :o)

  3. Anonymous21/9/14 10:04

    I have just bought a retirement house in the Orba Valley, Alicante and have heard of these Gota Fria torrential storms. I look forward (I hope) to witnessing one in October 2014!

    l LOVE rain :)

    1. I don't know about October, but they've announced some scary rain for tomorrow! Stay dry and safe! ;)


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