Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy indirectly affecting Canary Islands


There are warnings of strong winds, scattered thunderstorms and moderate to heavy rainfall for La Gomera and all the western Canaries, later extending east. It will remain fairly warm however with around 25ºC. (See bottom of post for 9 # updates)

A very complex weather situation has produced a large area of low pressure far west of us. This low is slowly approaching and will be followed by another, while a further two low pressure systems are in the north preventing the usually rapid passage of the western lows. This could cause the precipitation associated with the western low to become almost stationary over the Canaries and bring some more prolonged spells of rain. 
To add to this potential, the large low relatively far west of us is bringing in extra tropical energy from the outer southern flanks of the headline-making storm Sandy which is affecting the east coast of the US. The large low in turn may be partially to blame for storm Sandy to have hit the eastern United States. Shot-lived tropical storm Tony formed subsequently to the formation of Sandy, didn't come to much but absorbed huge amounts of warm moisture which then spawned the almost stationary low affecting these islands for the next few days...
Well, there's more to it - but I won't bore you further.
What does it mean for the Canary Islands ?
1) From  today until Thursday morning strong to gale force gusty winds (prevailing 
    southwesterly) can be expected  - especially on higher ground.
2) For the same period of time thunderstorms and showers, some heavy, are forecast.
    The showers may merge into longer spells of rain. Some localised flooding
    may occur.
3) After the prolonged drought this year, the above conditions may lead to landslides and
   rockfalls in mountainous terrain - so hiking tours should not be undertaken.      
4) If you need to drive, take extra care.
5) Higher waves could make swimming very dangerous at exposed beaches.

 Chart for tonight/Wednesday morning. Oct. 30th/31st (Source OPC/NOAA)

UPDATE #1 (3pm):

The governments of the islands of La Gomera, El Hierro, La Palma and Tenerife have activated their emergency plans as a precautionary measure.

The situation at midday

Blue and red areas are heavy
rain approaching from the SW
(Source: NOAA)

UPDATE #2 (6pm):

The wind is rising and the sea is churned-up. The sky is like lead, covered with low cloud. Rain has been very light so far in Valle gran Rey, but some other places in the Canaries have had substantial amounts of rain already, and wind gusts of between 100km/h and 150 km/h have been reported. 
The 'low in the west' now is a proper storm system with a central minimum pressure of
about 990 mb.
The rain warning for Valle Gran Rey comes into effect from 9pm tonight.
This photo of a cloud formation was taken late this afternoon in the south of Tenerife with a mobile phone.
The photo is real and not edited ! It was named 'nubepelicula' (movie cloud) and appeared in 'foro acanmet'
(c) Rigoberto Rodríguez

UPDATE #3 (10:55 pm):

The situation at the moment appears to have calmed, but forecasters are warning that the danger hasn't passed yet. There is a very charged atmosphere in the air with an unusually high temperature in some places.
Today saw lots of relatively minor incidents, such as cars damaged by fallen branches, some walls, fences, signs and lamp posts blown down. The worst affected areas were parts of the island of La Palma and the north of Tenerife. Flooding was minimal.
...and just when everyone started to expect more substantial rain, the unexpected happened: 
A forest fire broke out in several places a couple of hours ago close to the town of Los Realejos on Tenerife.
The fire is in a pine forest close to a densely populated area and was caused by strong
winds blowing down a high-tension power line which supplies a large area. Now the power had to be switched off to allow fire brigades tackle the fire.
Rain would be welcome there now...

30-10-12  UPDATE #4 (11:55 pm):

Rain Radar 23:40 UTC

A light rain is beginning to fall, but the rain radar is showing
ominous reflections moving in from the southwest...

The fire brigades are hoping to bring the fire in Los Realejos
under control within the next few hours

31-10-12  UPDATE #5  (1am):

Echotop Rain Radar 00:40 UTC

The light rain has stopped again, but as of midnight tonight
there is an orange alert in effect for  30mm of rain in one 
hour and up to 100mm in 12 hours. 
As you can see on the latest radar screenshot the situation
is still developing...

31-10-12  UPDATE #6  ( 7am):

Echotop Rain Radar 06:40 UTC

Persistent moderate rain has been falling for more than an hour now, especially on La Gomera and Tenerife. The rain appears to be intensifying. A short while ago I heard rocks falling in an uninhabited part of Valle Gran Rey.
Warnings are in effect until Thursday morning.

31-10-12   UPDATE #7  (8:20am)

The rain has intensified and a thunderstorm is almost over Valle Gran Rey. The 'barranco' (a normally dry riverbed) is running with lots of water and debris.
People in the western Canary Islands have been asked not to travel unless necessary and to be very cautious if doing so.
The fire in Los Realejos, Tenerife has been brought under control with the help of the rain.

31-10-12  UPDATE #8 (12 noon):

It has been raining continuously since early
this morning, but thankfully the rain was only moderate. A second thunderstorm over Valle Gran Rey about an hour ago passed without incident.
On La Gomera and on the other Canary islands only minor incidents and some traffic disruptions were reported up to now.
The satellite picture on the left shows the train of showers crossing the Canaries from
the southwest.
Roads are treacherous with flooding and debris: CAUTION !

31-10-12  UPDATE #9 ( 7pm) :

The continuous rain, which lasted for more than 8 hours stopped about half an hour after
my last post here, and we've only had a couple of light showers since then. The sun even came out for brief periods ! All in all a lot of rain came down, but thankfully no major incidents were reported in the Canary Islands. All preventive measures were applied and most people took precautions, thanks to the warnings and the preparedness of the authorities in the face of a potentially very dangerous situation.
The level of warnings has been lowered now to yellow  and is in effect until tomorrow morning 9 am. The possibility of isolated heavy showers still exists on all of the Canary Islands, and strong wind gusts may still occur.
However, the worst is over for now.
Here's a photo I took at about sunset tonight, which shows a clearing sky in the west (on the right):

+ NEW POST NOV. 1st : Warnings extended in Canary Islands

Monday, October 29, 2012

Benefit Gala

NEW DATES: Dec. 7th + 8th 
On Friday and Saturday, Nov. 2nd + 3rd, a benefit gala with more than 20 participating artists will take place in the harbour of Valle Gran Rey. All tastes will be catered for: From Canarian folk music to pop and salsa and even activities for children. The fun starts a 6pm each day and will continue 'till the early hours of the morning. Tickets are 15 Euros for the two days, one day only costs 10 Euros. All proceeds will go to the victims of the recent fires on La Gomera.
Several fiestas were cancelled during the summer due to the fires, so now is a good time to party again and help the victims at the same time.
NEW DATES: Dec. 7th + 8th 2012
(change of dates was due to inclement weather)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Richard Lee

Missing British citizen Richard Michael Lee: No further developments regarding the investigation have been reported locally. The search continues. Appeal for clues and please help to distribute photograph on the web! (See:HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN ? & British Citizen Missing On La Gomera  & Richard M. Lee still missing + UPDATE July '13) .

Other LA GOMERA NEWS: The government is to contract 89 previously unemployed workers for a 'socio-environmental correction' plan to alleviate and repair damages resulting from the recent forest fires that swept through several communities on La Gomera. More than 400.000 Euros have been allocated for the scheme.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Police have now released the passport photograph (above, click image to enlarge) of the missing British citizen (see my last post British Citizen Missing On La Gomera) and are asking for the picture to be widely distributed through social networks. There is still no trace of R.M.L. and the investigation has shown that he did not leave the island by ferry or by scheduled flight.
UPDATE 1: The missing man's full name has become known, it is Richard Michael Lee
Update 2: The 'Daily Mail' (online edition) has written about the case: . This article  takes most of the information from the Canary Islands daily 'La Opinion', but their theory that the man may have become stuck in a ravine while hiking in the National Park contradicts the locally-reported fact that he left his hiking gear in his hotel room. Also, the national park is more than ten miles away from his hotel.

24-10-12:   Police on La Gomera are still looking for clues...

Monday, October 22, 2012

British Citizen Missing On La Gomera

A British citizen has disappeared in San Sebastian de La Gomera, the island's capital, according to '', one of several digital news media on La Gomera. The digital paper writes today that 'according to well informed sources'
the man is 56 years old, was last seen leaving his hotel room two weeks ago on Sunday, Oct. 7th, and failed to return. The room was booked until Saturday, Oct. 20th. He had left all his personal belongings in the hotel. A unit of the Guardia Civil is searching for the visitor, but no further details were released and neither his name nor a picture has been made public.
Anyone with information about the missing man should contact the Guardia Civil or telephone 112 (English spoken).The police station in San Sebastian can also be contacted directly on (0034)922 870326.
UPDATE: It has emerged that the missing man is about 5ft 7in tall (1,80m), heavily built, with grey hair and his initials are R.M.L. 
He left all his luggage behind, which included his hiking equipment. He was to have checked out of the hotel on Friday, 19th of Oct.
+SEE:Richard M. Lee still missing + UPDATE July '13

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Opposition Calls Meeting

The deputies of the opposition in the island's parliament have called for an extraordinary general meeting to be held after the recent resignation of La Gomera's vice-president (see:LA GOMERA NEWS: VICE-PRESIDENT RESIGNS).  They want the island's president, Casimiro Curbelo, to explain the circumstances of the resignation of Gregorio Medina and the resulting cabinet  reshuffle. They are also seeking more information about aid for the victims of the recent fires on La Gomera.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More Helicopters And A Tragic Death

The El Hierro rescue helicopter has been kept very busy on La Gomera since my last post. On Saturday a tragic accident occurred in Valle Gran Rey just before dark. A man in his 40's was coming from a 'fiesta' and fell about 70 yards down a steep incline. According to rumours he suffered a heart attack and subsequently fell. The helicopter was quickly on scene and found the injured in a critical condition and he was flown to the island's  brand new hospital where he died a short while later.
On Tuesday an employee of 'Cobra', the company repairing and substituting power lines 
damaged in the recent fires had a work-related accident and had to be choppered to hospital for treatment. He is said to be recovering well.
More rescue helicopter action was observed during the week, but these were comparatively minor incidents.

Helicopter action of a different kind is making headlines in the Canaries these days, as  military choppers have been flying combat style over houses and the spanish MOD have  said that the crews are training for missions in Afghanistan. Local pressure groups are outraged and call it a 'cynical act in the face of cutbacks in health and social spending'

'Islas Airways', an small airline that operates inter-island flights in the Canaries has temporarily suspended its operations to 'reorganise its operation and to review the financial situation'. This leaves 'Binter' the only airline to operate flights here.
Meanwhile 'Ryanair' has offered to step in and operate flights between the Canary Islands,
'if seven restrictions are lifted' and they said that it is 'now cheaper to fly from the Canaries to London than to fly from one island to another'.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Poisoned Palms After Fire On La Gomera

44 palm trees found dead in Valle Gran Rey

La Gomera is home to the largest number of the Canarian palm tree (Phoenix Canariensis)  in these islands and the species is protected and cherished. More than 100.000 specimen have been counted on La Gomera and they are also a source of income for local farmers. From animal fodder to the the sweet palm 'honey' (miel de palma), they play an important part in our economy. Palm honey is not really honey, but the syrup obtained by first cutting the crown of the palm tree, then collecting the sweet and watery sap (called 'guarapo') that rises up the trunk and further boiling the sap down to a syrupy consistency to obtain the 'honey'. This liquid is delicious, full of minerals etc., and highly valued. A Canarian palm tree may be exploited in this way only once every five years without doing damage. Palms may not be cut down for any reason without a permit that is extremely difficult to obtain, as they are a protected species.
 Phoenix Canariensis  rises from the ashes and after the recent fires most of the palms were showing new green shoots sprouting from blackened trees even though shortly after the fire they appeared to be dead. There are large numbers of these palms in Valle Gran Rey, often clustered in groves, in all parts of the valley. 
Palms damaged by fire, but recovering
in El Guro, Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera

On the positive side, hundreds of  

burnt Phoenix are rising from the

ashes and are recovering rapidly !

After receiving a number of complaints by locals about dying trees in several parts of the upper valley, the authorities discovered that more than 40 palms had one or more large round holes about a foot deep drilled into the base of the trunk. These holes contained a strong-smelling liquid that appeared to be an agricultural herbicide and samples were taken for examination. 
Why anyone would have done this remains a mystery and the action has been widely condemned. There are fears that more dead or damaged palms will be discovered.
The investigation is continuing and the authorities are appealing for witnesses to come forward.    
(Update: A subsequent survey discovered a total of 121 poisoned palm trees in Valle Gran Rey and a man will be charged with the poisoning of 21 of them, see new post).                                       

Phoenix Canariensis at sunset in lower Valle Gran Rey

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Dramatic Rescue Again Today

Late this morning, just hours after posting the previous article with photos of Sunday's rescue operation (see Another Rescue Operation), I witnessed dramatic scenes (photo slideshow below). This time the action was on a steep mountain called La Merica. The path up to the summit passes close to my house and thousands walk up there safely every year. Some people foolishly forget to bring a sunhat and water and it happened only a few weeks ago that a tourist had to be rescued suffering from dehydration and sunstroke.

 The El Hierro emergency helicopter arrived just after 11a.m. this morning and having located the victim near the summit, set down a crew member with the help of the winch. The rescuer then radioed for assistance and another man (possibly the doctor) was let down,followed later by a stretcher. The injured was then winched up to the helicopter and subsequently the doctor (?) was seen going up. The first rescuer then walked to a ledge and in a spectacular show of skill the helicopter pilot maneuvered the craft extremely close to cliff and ledge so that the crewman could simply climb aboard without the use of the winch. 
Slideshow (57 sec.)of dramatic photos with music by Gomera's own 'Dos Guitarras' below:

     ... and the number is: 112 - for emergency services (English spoken!)

Another Rescue Operation

On La Gomera every now and then we witness helicopters coming to the rescue of hill walkers and tourists who just seem unable to stick to our mostly well defined paths

While most hiking trails and walks on La Gomera are easy and can be enjoyed by almost anybody with two functioning legs, there are some tracks that should be left to the adventure-seeking specialists. Especially near cliffs one should heed the signs and stick to the defined route, rather than follow a barely visible goat-track, no matter how enticing the view at the dubious end may be. 
On Sunday it happened again that the rescue helicopter from neighbouring El Hierro island had to come to La Gomera and risk flying into a gorge in the mountain 'Teguerguenche' east of my house to set down a crew member, then circling in wait, and finally picking up the injured and crew again. But beware, the rules have changed this year. Now this service can cost you a lot of money, if it was needed because of irresponsible or reckless action by you.

However, it is reassuring to know that efficient help does arrive very fast when needed.

Sunday, October 07, 2012


Lack of trust in president

Yesterday the island's vice-president, Gregorio Medina Tome, unexpectedly handed in his official letter of resignation. He had been holding this post for the past 13 years and during this time was considered the president's loyal aide and supporter. Sources close to the government who claim to have seen the letter of resignation quote the (ex)vice-president as having 'a feeling of loss of trust, which has been confirmed in the past months'. In his letter he is to have also stated that trust and loyalty 'could not be maintained' when Casimiro Curbelo, the president, 'is capable of constructing a great lie on a base of half-truths'.
Gregorio Medina Tome, who also represents La Gomera in the Spanish Senate, has cited 'duplicity of public responsibilities' as a further reason for stepping down and promised a press statement 'in the next few days'. There hasn't been any reaction by the president so far. Curbelo was the senator representing La Gomera until July 2011 when he was forced to resign this post after his alleged involvement in a brawl with police in the red-light district of Madrid, where he ended up being arrested. Gregorio Medina Tome was subsequently elected as senator for La Gomera.
However, the latest developments appear to be related to the controversies surrounding the president's handling of the recent fires on La Gomera. be continued, I'm sure.

Casimiro Curbelo, President
Gregorio Medina Tome, Senator

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Bye bye Nadine...

One of the longest lasting tropical storms on record has finally become a remnant low after puzzling meteorologists and doing unprecedented loops in its track. It nearly came within striking distance of the Canary Islands and gave rise to hopes for persistent rain. After all only small amounts of precipitation were registered on La Gomera, but these helped to start rejuvenation of the scorched parts of the island.
The remnant low will not affect La Gomera, but the island feels fresher and full of hope.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Donations for fire victims

The preliminary account for the donations collected by so far shows nearly 10000 Euros,
with some more money (e.g. from the 'Nooctua' benefit gig) still to be added. Here the list:

This is a small amount considering the damage of over 4 million in Valle Gran Rey alone.
If you want to contribute to the account for the victims who lost everything in Valle Gran Rey click on the link below:
For reforestation on the 3 Canary Islands of Tenerife, La Palma and La Gomera the government has allocated 3,1 million.

Total fire damage is estimated at over 70 million Euros for the whole of La Gomera.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Nadine affecting the Azores soon again

Despite having weakened to a tropical storm, three weeks old Nadine is likely to bring wind and rain to the Azores a second time. The Canary Islands will not be affected.
1100 AM AST TUE OCT 02 2012
LOCATION...34.2N 37.5W