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January 22, 2024

Bilbao under water- What happend on the 26th of August 1983?

"It was an exceptionally rainy month and a cold drop left more than 500 liters per square meter in 24 hours," says José Antonio Aranda, head of meteorology at Euskalmet on August 26, 1983. But what makes this day so special and why is it still considered one of the worst weather events in the Basque Country? Now we are looking for an answer to these and other questions together.

What happened in 1983?


In the area of Bizkaia, more precisely in Bilbao and its surroundings, 500 square liters fell in just one day. That is an extreme amount in a month in which it had already rained 600 liters per square meter in August 1983. For example, almost a cubic hectometer of rain fell on the Casco Viejo in Bilbao alone, causing truly extraordinary floods. In addition, it should be borne in mind that in addition to these enormous amounts of water, there is also water from the rivers and surrounding mountains.

How long did the disaster last?

The extraordinary thing is that these severe floods occurred in just 24 hours. It is worth mentioning that not every hour fell from the sky the same amount of water. Much more, there were some highlights during these 24 hours, where 100 liters of water fell to the ground in just one hour.

Why didn't we know earlier that such a storm was coming?

To answer this question thoroughly, it must be mentioned again at the beginning that this terrible event occurred exactly 40 years ago. Modern technologies with which meteorologists can now determine with maximum precision when and where extreme weather events occur in the world obviously did not exist at that time. José Antonio Aranda says in his interview to underline this fact: “[...] a simple phone today is far more powerful than the best computer in the world at the time.” In the 1990, there were very few automatic sensors capable of reporting that amount of precipitation.

Do we have to expect such extreme weather events in Spain more frequently in the future?

In general, science agrees that such large amounts of water are definitely exceptions. Experts say that extreme weather events of this type only happen again over the course of thousands of years. However, these claims are only based on statistics, because at that time there can also be very radical climate changes and many other things.

How can the population better prepare for this?

The National Center for Environmental Health presents many different answers to this question, such as preparing emergency supplies such as food and water, storing at least 1 gallon of water per day for each person and each pet, or keeping a reserve for at least 3 days. Apart from that, it also makes sense to listen to your local radio station or TV channel to see if there are news.


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