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Cinque Terre Floods

Cinque Terre is known for its usually mild weather, sans a few months out of the year (spring seasons) that host rainy weather. It is this weather and the breathtaking sites that bring thousands of visitors each year. But on October 25, 2011, the idyllic countryside gave way to disaster. The summer had been very dry, which made the flood on this day more unsuspecting and devastating. All five towns in their own unique way were forced to succumb to the weather and recover from it in unimaginable ways.

The devastation took place in a mere four hours with 22 inches of rain being let loose from the sky above. For an area that doesn’t normally content with large amounts of rain, those 22 inches represented a third of the annual rain they typically receive. Rain that falls in such a short amount of time can wreak havoc on any area, but for the little towns of Cinque Terra, it was beyond troubling.

For geographical areas such as this, which tend to have large areas of flatlands, flash flooding can be a catastrophe and this was the case in 2011. The drainage areas here are simplified and the mass amount of water that fell in the short span of time lingered throughout the narrow streets, damaging much of what was in the path.

Areas such as Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Corniglia are known to be hilly with lots of valleys and thus those areas were largely undamaged; however the other two towns of Monterosso and Vernazza had multiple areas of contention to deal with. By the time the rain let up, most of the area was flooded and the structures lay beneath three meters of not only unsanitary waters, but heavy, enveloping mud. The storm caused a wave of power outages and the townspeople were left without a water supply, electricity and access to telephones.

flooding in Vernazza

It was, by all accounts, the worst disaster the locals had seen in years and the following months were spent with the people of the towns coming together in an effort to support one another and trying to rebuild their town and their lives.

Although Monterosso has an underground drainage system which should have assisted with the flood, the sheer amount of water and the debris caused the canals to become blocked and impeded the recovery efforts. Throughout the streets walkways were blocked with trees, rocks, large puddles full of mud, furnishings and cars that had stalled and couldn’t be started.

Pipes within the drainage system burst unexpectedly causing further damage and a vast number of people found themselves stranded in their homes which were flooded. Since the streets offered no refuge, they were forced to stay put until help and relief could arrive.

Vernazza had it worse if that is imaginable as the entire town centers on one narrow street. The hills surrounding the area offered no protection and in fact made matters worse as the heavy rains traveled over them and dropped feet of water which quickly welled up in the town, destroying everything in its path. Six months after the flood, much of the town still lay in devastation and the businesses and homes remained damaged and closed. Of the two towns it is Vernazza that suffered the most as it was smaller, confined and didn’t have communications with other areas that the other four towns do.

Eventually new canal systems were built and both the towns have recovered, but still well over a year later, townspeople speak of this horrific time and how their homes and the area will never again be the same.

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