Friday, March 01, 2013

Storm will affect Canary Islands (+ 22 updates), March 2013

Due to a large blocking-high near Britain and Ireland the Atlantic low pressure systems are forced further south and a storm system is beginning to develop rapidly west of Madeira. It is expected to track east and reach a minimum pressure of about 974 hPa by Monday just north of the Canary Islands near Madeira.
This situation will bring unsettled rainy weather to the Canaries from today until the beginning of next week. The most worrying factors will be the winds and the state of the sea. Winds from a southerly direction will be strengthening gradually to veer west later this weekend and reach gale to strong gale force with stronger gusts particularly on exposed higher ground. Significant wave height (with the gales blowing over a heavy westerly swell) could reach more than 5 metres on exposed coasts. Some heavy spells of rain and thunderstorms (to a lesser extent) could also affect us.
Don't plan any hiking tours, etc. for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday - and avoid exposed coasts !

I will update this post regularly:

+1st UPDATE 01/03/13 @ 10:30 am: The Spanish met. service have issued the first weather warnings for for the western Canaries and Gran Canaria for Sunday 03-03-13 from 12noon: Very heavy and persistent showers with up to 30mm/hour and 100 mm in 12hrs, as well as  wind gusts of up to 100km/h (Bf: storm force 10), even up to 120 km/h in the mountains.

+2nd UPDATE 01/03/13 @ 7:30 pm: From Tuesday the weather should improve a lot, but will remain unsettled and windy - thankfully to a much lesser degree.

+3rd UPDATE 01/03/13 @ 8 pm: The Canarian Meteorological Association have issued a rare RED weather alert for the above situation. They emphasise the threat to coastal regions by waves of between 5 and 7 metres on exposed coasts in the western regions - and to exposed high ground by wind gusts of up to and above 120 km/h (that is around Force 12 Bf hurricane force !). The situation will first affect the western regions in the Canaries and will then extend to the eastern islands. Very heavy showers can be expected almost anywhere.

Please do not expect extremes everywhere, but DO be careful and and DO take precautions - even if conditions appear to be pleasant for a while !!!

+4th UPDATE Saturday O2/03/13 @ 00:30 am: 
Here's a general synopsis of the situation right now superimposed on a recent satellite picture which was published by Jose Luis of ACANMET in their forum. I've just changed some of the text annotation to English and put  a light green oval around the Canary Islands. The white text over the yellow arrow says: ''In 36 hours we'll have it (the storm) near the archipelago''. It illustrates the disturbed weather very well. Thanks and a great job, Jose Luis!

+5th UPDATE Saturday 02/03/13 @ 9:30 am:
New additional severe weather warnings have just been issued by the Spanish met. office AEMET for all  day Monday, 5th of March '13: 
Coasts will be affected by heavy seas with waves of up to 5 metres.
Winds could reach 100 km/h or more.
Heavy showers can be expected.

+6th UPDATE Saturday 02/03/13 @ 1:30 pm: 
The government of the Canary Islands has issued a severe weather alert which comes into effect from 9am on Sunday 3rd of March '13:
 People are advised to avoid unnecessary journeys and to stay away from exposed coasts, ravines, forests, power and phone lines, etc., and to secure garden furniture,scaffolding, etc.. Some sporting fixtures and open air events have already been cancelled.

Satelite image @ 6am, with 'Funktop'
 enhancemnt (Canaries in red oval)
+7th UPDATE, Sunday 03/03/13 @ 9am:

The day is starting completely overcast and after a calm night the wind is slowly increasing and turning gusty.
All emergency services in the Canary Islands have been put on standby and the authorities have asked the population and visitors to remain indoors and not to travel unless absolutely necessary. They're also advising to take the maximum care and all possible precautionary measures.

+8th UPDATE, Sunday 03/03/13 @ 10:30am:
The latest wind warnings by AEMET have increased maximum winds speeds to 120 km/h - that is Bf hurricane force 12  - for gusts in exposed areas in the western islands.
The storm system is moving in from the West and so the Eastern Canary Islands will be affected last and (hopefully) to a lesser degree.

If you have to travel later today or tomorrow, do be extremely careful and allow extra time. My personal opinion is that all traffic by road, sea and air could be severely disrupted from later today until Tuesday - and especially tomorrow, Monday March 4th. Expect cancellations and check with the operators of whatever service you're planning to use.

+9th UPDATE, Sunday 03/03/13 @ 4:30 pm: 

The government of the Canary Islands has declared the highest alert level (ALERTA MAXIMA) for the western Canaries and for Gran Canaria. They now expect winds gusting well above hurricane force 12 Bf with speeds possibly exceeding 130 km/h in places. 

A press conference is expected to be held shortly.

It certainly is gradually getting worse by the hour and I'm just back from securing everything I could around two presently vacant neighbouring houses as well. It looks like tonight is going to be a long sleepless night. I just hope the power supply and the phone lines will hold. If you don't hear from me every now and again you'll know that they didn't hold. 
I'll give you details of the press conference later...

+10th UPDATE, Sunday 03/03/13 @ 6:30 pm:
Not much new at the press conference. I've already reported all the relevant information in my previous updates. The only news was that all schools and universities in La Gomera, La Palma, El Hierro, Tenerife and Gran Canaria (all the islands that will bear the initial brunt of the storm) will remain closed tomorrow.
Some minor incidents and traffic disruptions have already been reported from western islands. 
The winds here in Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera have risen to a gale by now and the barometer keeps falling rapidly. The sea is very angry-looking and it is beginning to rain lightly. There was heavy rain in La Palma already and more than 100 mm have been reported at one station there.

+11th UPDATE, Sunday 03/03/13 @ 9 pm:
There are reports of road closures in the western Canaries and the last ferries to leave La Gomera were unable to berth in the port of Los Cristianos on Tenerife due to the strong wind and some waves coming in over the harbour wall. They will probably now continue to Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The Fred. Olsen ferry to La Palma was unable to dock there and is now going back to Tenerife. My guess is that there won't be ANY sailings anywhere in the Canaries tomorrow, but DO check with your ferry company. Some flights in the second half of today were cancelled or diverted, but most did operate.
There was some flooding on La Palma and very strong winds up to 140 km/h and an articulated truck was overturned by the storm.
Reports of thunderstorms, heavy rain and winds well over 100 km/h are coming in from Tenerife and parts of Gran Canaria.
Here in Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera some stretches of road have been closed due to flooding of the barranco, as it has been raining continuously for a good while now, and some of that rain has been extremely heavy, accompanied by strong gusts of wind. As I write the rain is stopping, however.
Rockfalls and landslides have caused road closures and traffic restrictions in several locations in the western islands.
Ah yes, the Canarian meteorological association have named the storm 'Arteara' (after a place on Gran Canaria). It is their third named storm this winter season and the most vicious by far.
... and they say Arteara's worst wind is yet to come.

+12th UPDATE  Monday 04/03/13 @ 1 am:
GFS forecast model for 12 noon Monday,
March 4th '13, (Canaries in red oval)
Last night's sailing by Fred. Olsen's huge trimaran car ferry from Gran Canaria to Tenerife hit some very large waves that caused the boat to roll so heavily that many cars on the car deck were pushed into each other and badly damaged. The ferry port of Agaete on Gran Canaria has now been closed as has the important ferry port of Los Cristianos on Tenerife, the port of Santa Cruz de La Palma, the ferry port of El Hierro and the port of San Sebastian de La Gomera. All this leaves most of us in the Canaries cut off from each other (and from vital supplies),and lots of travellers are stranded.
There were many minor incidents, small scale power cuts, localised flooding and blocked stretches of road reported from around the archipelago. On the island of El Hierro a several hundred year old dragon tree (an emblematic tree in the Canaries) sadly was felled by the gales.
Madeira has also been severely affected by the storm as has Morocco.

After a couple of hours of relative calm in Valle Gran Rey on La Gomera the wind is beginning to increase again and has backed SW...

+13th UPDATE, Monday 04/03/13 @ 3:30 am:

Significant wave height in metres for noon,Tuesday
 March 5th '13 (OPC) Tenerife is shown in the red circle
Sleepless night as predicted - I'm just too excited by this event and have been through this many a night in the West of Ireland when it was even worse and you didn't know if the roof would stay on.
Anyway the wind is rising rapidly again, the barometer is falling rapidly again and a short shower of rain is lashing not down, but sideways again !
The highest wind gust last night was recorded in Valverde, on El Hierro, by the official AEMET station, clocking a whopping 154 km/h (that's 96 mp/h to you, or 83 knots to me) ! Tenerife got the second-strogest gust at Izaña (140 km/h), 3rd place went to Gran Canaria (Tejeda,131 km/h) and La Gomera came fourth with 125 km/h recorded at Alto de Igualero, followed with just 1km/h less by the airport of La Palma - all well over the starting line for hurricane force.
The main worry over the next 18 hours should be the wind, and over the coming 36 hrs it's the significant wave height, which is increasing gradually with wind over a heavy swell.

+14th UPDATE, Monday 04/03/13 @ 8 am:

Image taken a few minutes ago, with waves in front of Hotel Gran Rey on La Gomera.
Wave height is expected to increase significantly until tomorrow.

+15th UPDATE, Monday 04/03/13 @ 9 am:
AEMET, the Spanish met. office have now issued their highest (RED) alert, as well as the Canarian ACM, for all of La Gomera and El Hierro plus for the mountains of Tenerife, La Palma and Gran Canaria. 
Winds exceeding speeds of 130 km/h in gusts can be expected there and the danger is IMMINENT, but more likely from around 11am.
Lesser, but still very significant danger exists in all other regions of the Canary Islands and further alerts for more areas may be issued later.
For detailed information go to the AEMET website by clicking the following link:     

+16th UPDATE, Monday 04/03/13 @ 1 pm:

At about 11:30am we had an extremely heavy squally shower  that caused waterfalls in the steep mountainsides in Valle Gran Rey - and the electricity went until short while ago. The blustery squall itself didn't last too long, but as I write the next one is approaching rapidly. The temperature has dropped considerably with the first one and that means that the cold front associated with the storm depression is near or on us. It is a similar situation all over the Canaries and the coming hours should be interesting...
The only ferry now connecting La Gomera to the outside world is the ship of the Armas line that is sailing from Santa Cruz de Tenerife (instead of Los Cristianos) at the moment in the hope of berthing in San Sebastian de La Gomera and then attempting the return to Tenerife - weather permitting, that is !  The Fred. Olsen line have said that sailings are 'hardly probable' which I interpret as 'forget it'. 
As I was writing the last words, the latest squall knocked out the power again for 10 mins. so I'll better finish this quickly.
All over the Canaries now: Traffic (sea, air, road) disruption - but not too bad. Lots of minor incidents and accidents. A larger landslide/ rockfall blocking the  minor road to two small villages here on La Gomera. 

+17th UPDATE, Monday 04/03/13 @ 4:30 pm:
...well unfortunately we now have a casualty here in Valle Gran Rey. One person was very seriously injured by a rockfall. I won't say any more  - ONLY TO STRESS AGAIN THAT IT IS EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TO BE OUT AND ABOUT IN THIS WEATHER. Don't be deceived by short periods of sunshine and slacker winds. Only venture out when necessary and then with extreme caution.
Since my last post it has been raining almost continuously, interspersed with very heavy squalls with fierce gusts of wind and, of course, power outages of various duration. The barranco, a normally dry riverbed, is like a river in spate now. The weather is still worsening and the waves are getting larger and more organised all the time. 
Police and ambulances are racing with sirens blaring again just now, but I don't know what happened.

The MAXIMUM ALERT declared by the government has been extended to     !!!!!!!!!!!!       ALL CANARY ISLANDS now.                          

Huge area of thunderstorms very close to Canaries now

+18th UPDATE, Monday 04/03/13 @ 7 pm:
OPC chart promising better weather in Canary Islands
(in red oval) for Wednesday, March 6th 2013
Some light at the end of the (wind)tunnel at last: Most forecast models have changed and it seems likely that from later tomorrow, Tuesday, the storm system will have begun to fill and move away and this will allow for a ridge of high pressure to move in over the Canary Islands on Wednesday, bringing much better weather.
However, warnings and alerts will remain in effect for tomorrow, Tuesday 5th of March (albeit downgraded a bit).
Wind, waves and occasional squally showers may still reach dangerous levels in the first half of tomorrow.

+The previous warnings for tonight remain ! There is the additional risk of thunderstorms, which could strike anywhere in the archipelago tonight.

The Fred Olsen ferry company has cancelled all sailings today until further notice and the planned sailing tonight by Armas from Gomera to Tenerife has been cancelled, as have many inter island flights. This situation will be revised tomorrow. As I write another severe squall is buffeting the house and a thunderstorm is lurking just west.

+19th UPDATE, Monday 04/03/13 @ 10 pm:
Sadly the casualty mentioned in my 17th update has now died of her severe injuries at the university hospital on Tenerife. She was a 26 year old German tourist who had been walking along a dirt track below a very tall sheer cliff leading from the harbour of Valle Gran Rey to a remote place called Argaga, when she was struck by falling rocks. She was rescued promptly by two different units of the emergency services and transferred later by helicopter-ambulance to Tenerife - all in atrocious weather conditions. She is the only fatality during storm 'Arteara' in the Canary Islands.
Meanwhile 'Arteara' shows no signs of easing at all and is still roaring wildly.
I'll leave it at that for today. 

+20th UPDATE, Tuesday 05/03/13 @ 9 am:              

Gust (km/h)
El Hierro
La Gomera
Gran Canaria
   Click on stations to get detailed reports

Last night the storm peaked with severe gusts reported everywhere in the Canary Islands. As you can see above, the AEMET stations recorded a 131 km/h near Igualero on La Gomera yesterday, less than 15 miles from where I live and last night gust  they recorded nearly the same. There were heavy downpours of rain in many locations as well and some thunderstorms. It certainly was the peak of the storm where I live in Valle Gran Rey and my house was pummelled all night by severe gusts and  repeatedly very heavy showers pelted the roof.
All in all the Canary Islands escaped relatively unharmed after being battered by a very rare continuous storm that lasted more than 50 hours.
Schools and colleges have re-opened today
Warnings and alerts will remain in effect for today, Tuesday 5th of March 2013 until further notice.
At the moment winds are still strong and gusty, but decreasing, and the heavy swell is still causing problems for maritime traffic. Hundreds of people are stranded in the port of Los Cristianos on Tenerife because ferries were unable to berth. The Armas ferry that tied up in the port of San Sebastian de la Gomera yesterday was forced to leave for Santa Cruz de Tenerife during the night due to heavy seas entering the harbour. Several stretches of coastal roads have been closed, e.g. here in V.G.R. the stretch between La Playa and La Puntilla, due to waves breaking over the protective wall.
Conditions should improve substantially later in the day as winds will gradually ease and the squally showers will become less frequent. The heavy swell at sea will slowly decrease from tonight. Lots of sunny spells, too. I expect warnings and alerts to be lifted later in the day, but please remain cautious today.
High tide is around 7pm tonight in the Canaries.
Tomorrow should see a return to more 'normal' Canary Islands weather.

+News just in: Fred. Olsen ferries will resume all sailings.
To La Gomera the following revised timetable applies today only (delays are possible, though):

Gomera - Cristianos 10:00 Horas
Gomera - Cristianos 12:00 Horas
Gomera - Cristianos 17:30 Horas
Cristianos - Gomera 09:00 Horas
Cristianos - Gomera 11:00 Horas
Cristianos - Gomera 14:00 Horas
Cristianos - Gomera 19:00 Horas

+21st UPDATE, Tuesday 05/03/13 @ 2 pm:  

Conditions are gradually improving, but during the occasional squalls it is still quite wild. News just in: There have been several larger rockfalls and/or mudslides on La Gomera, forcing the temporary closure of some stretches of road (e.g. Alajero - Pajarito and the road to El Rejo between the junction near Agando and the branch-off to El Cedro). Crews are out clearing the debris and it is hoped that these roads will reopen later today. 
The authorities are reminding motorists and pedestrians to remain extremely cautious  on roads and paths. 
The danger from rocks and soil loosened by  storms and/or heavy rains is often greater after the event when the sun is shining on the unstable material.
The threat to coastal regions remains until at least tomorrow morning as it will take quite some time for this swell to subside (the photo below was taken just a while ago of an average wave in front of Hotel Gran Rey at around LOW tide - CAUTION: High tide is around 7 pm tonight !):
Storm in Canary Islands, March 5th, 2013

22nd UPDATE, Tuesday 05/03/13 @ 10:30 pm:  

All's well that ends well - and thanks for the rain...
Just now the situation is calm and there aren't any more squalls, gusts,showers, high waves... 


Back to normal tomorrow with CAUTION after a rare event. REMAIN VIGILANT TONIGHT AND TOMORROW MORNING!


OPC Chart for Tuesday March 5th showing the 'retreat' of the lows
and building high pressure to the South of the Canary Islands

OPC chart valid noon Sunday showing storm and new low forming

NOAA chart for Saturday night, March 2nd '13
NOAA chart for noon on Monday, March 4th, 2013

Significant wave height for Tues. March 5th at noon.The small red
arrow points to La Gomera and Tenerife being on the 6 metre line.


Gran Canaria Blog said...

Greetings Willie, I've just been reading your latest updates. Hope everything is holding up on La Gomera, just saw the red alert now for high winds in La Gomera and Tenerife on AEMET. I remember Delta, do you think it will be as bad as that? Very cloudy here in Gran Canaria south now and starting to get windier and cooler.
Thanks for stopping by my blog

Peter Siegrist said...

Hey Willie ,) wow, looking like the sort of thing we get here.....hope every one is ok!

Willie said...

This mostly calm and sunny winter there were so many visitors from Ireland blowing into all sorts of wind instruments and left us with a hurricane - and pockets full of rain they had, too. ;-)
Thanks Peter, so far everyone is OK and no major incidents - but it isn't over yet.

Peter Siegrist said...

;) We must have taken some of your good weather with us.....its cold, but sunny and we had no rain for 3 weeks!!!
Anyway, hope it all blows away quick for you and you get back to the normal lovely weather !

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the info..

Kim Houmøller said...

Has been in Valle Gran Rey in 3 weeks. Is now in Copenhagen and think of you. Coming back next year. Hopefully we avoid a storm like this. Hold on tight!