‘Unprecedented’ floods wreak havoc in Uruguay’s capital of Montevideo


January 19 – A deluge hit the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo earlier this week, causing chaotic scenes across the city as streets were left under water after more than a month of hours-long rain.

The torrent of rain began Sunday night and continued through Monday morning, falling at a rate too fast for the ground to absorb properly and storm drains to keep up.

Two to 4 inches of rain fell in downtown Montevideo and up to 5 inches was recorded in Canelones, located about 25 miles north of the city. The highest rainfall total was reported in Carrasco, a neighborhood on the east side of Montevideo, where 6 inches fell. Uruguay Meteorological Service, Inumet, said most of the rain fell in a 2-hour window early Monday.

Average rainfall for the entire month of January in Montevideo is just 2.90 inches.

Residents who weren’t woken up by heavy rain, thunder and lightning in the middle of the night woke up to spooky scenes on Monday morning as city streets turned into raging rivers washing away vehicles and other objects. Among the items were a dumpster dumped in a street by rapid flood waters.

A flood of simultaneous requests for help caused the cut of the telephone lines at the National Directorate of Firefighters, according to MercoPress, a news agency covering Latin America and the South Atlantic.

By mid-morning, the department had received nearly 150 evacuation requests and 37 reports of fallen trees. Around 12,000 people were affected by power outages.

The official Twitter page for the city of Montevideo posted images on Tuesday morning of crews delivering mattresses and cleaning kits to various neighborhoods in the city. City officials said they are using all their available resources to deal with the “unprecedented” event. Bulldozers were called in to clear mounds of debris from roads.

There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries from the severe flooding.

In addition to the intensity of the precipitation, the extremely dry state of the ground due to continued drought likely added to the severity of the floods. Very dry soil is less able to absorb water which causes excess runoff, especially if the rain falls as fast as Monday morning.

A car is seen moved behind a house in Montevideo, Uruguay on Monday after heavy rain caused severe flooding. Photo via Accuweather

This latest flood is part of a series of extreme weather events that have occurred across South America in recent weeks, including a historic heat wave in parts of Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay and a fatal landslide associated with heavy rain at a tourist attraction in southeastern Brazil.

As cleanup efforts continue in and around Montevideo, forecasters say more rain could lead to additional problems.

“It appears to remain unstable in this region for much of the week with several rounds of rain and moving thunderstorms,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Tony Zartman said, adding an additional 1 to 3 inches of rain with locally higher amounts could occur.

Even if the heaviest rains stay away from hard-hit floodplains, Zartman warned that it wouldn’t take a lot of rain to cause additional flooding problems.

Icicles hang from the Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain in Bryant Park in New York City on January 12. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License picture

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