Record Rain Leads to Deaths, Travel Chaos Across Parts of Spain

Storm conditions are expected to ease over the rest of the week and officials have lifted maximum alerts for rain.

(Bloomberg) — Torrential rains over the weekend and on Monday in Spain left at least four people dead and hundreds stranded at train stations and roadsides as authorities called on citizens to stay at home.

A record amount of rain over 24 hours was registered in the cities of Valladolid, Segovia and Toledo on Sept. 3, according to Spain’s weather agency Aemet. High levels of rainfall are expected to continue over the next few hours, although maximum alerts for rain have been lifted and the storm is expected to ease over the rest of the week, Aemet said.

“Because of the exceptional and anomalous situation where rainfall records will be broken, I ask all madrileños to stay home today,” Madrid mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida said in a post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, on Sunday. “Emergency and security services have been reinforced.”

The extreme rainfall led to at least four deaths across Spain, and three people were reported missing, according to local news sources on Monday morning.

The storm hitting Spain is known locally as a cold drop and it occurs when cold air flowing at a high altitude from the Arctic clashes with warmer and more humid air over the Mediterranean Sea. These extreme events have become more frequent and intense as climate change has warmed the seas and the atmosphere in the region.

Spanish authorities sent a massive alert on all mobile phones in the Madrid region on Sunday for the first time ever. They warned people of the extreme risk of flooding over the following hours. At least 92 liters per square meter fell over the city, the highest levels of rain in one day since at least 1981. 

Regional authorities shut down public parks as well as cultural and sports installations, while LaLiga canceled a football match between Atlético de Madrid and Sevilla FC. Long- and medium-distance trains between Madrid and the region of Andalusia, as well as Toledo, were halted as some sections of the railways became flooded, according to a statement by railway operator Renfe. Several roads around the capital were closed and the city’s metro system was disrupted, with videos on social media showing water pouring over carriages. 

Elsewhere, the provinces of Tarragona in the northeastern region of Catalonia and Cadiz in the country’s south also saw extremely heavy rains, with water flooding basements and streets, and flash floods dragging cars and rubbish bins. 

These heavy rains are expected to alleviate Spain’s extreme drought, which has been going on for two years, leaving many reservoirs at record-low levels and millions of people living under water restrictions. Overall, Spain’s reservoirs were at 37.6% of their total capacity on August 28, according to the latest available data, with some below 20% of their capacity.

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