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Beginning of last year, we reported that the lagoons of Venice had almost dried up. Nine months later, today, nearly three-quarters of Venice, Italy, was flooded because of a storm system that brought strong winds, driving up water levels more than five feet in the lagoon city.
High winds push water in from the lagoon, flooding parts of the city frequently, but Monday’s levels were far higher than normal. At its peak, Monday’s water level reached nearly 61.5 inches, the highest since December 2008. Water levels were forecast to reach 63 inches above normal levels, which would have been the first time that had happened since December 1979.
“A strong low-pressure system is spinning through southern Europe, spreading heavy rain and strong winds across northern Italy,” said weather.com meteorologist Chris Dolce. “The strong winds triggered the inundation in Venice as they blew from south to north through the Adriatic Sea.”
The storm system was blamed for at least six deaths nationwide. Wind damage that brought down trees and sent objects airborne was to blame for the deaths.
Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said a series of underwater barriers being erected in the lagoon, known as the MOSE Project, would have prevented the inundation. The project is long overdue, beset by cost overruns and corruption scandals.
“MOSE would indeed have helped with this particular event,” said Bob Henson, weather and climate blogger for Weather Underground. “The water levels today reached 61.5 inches, which would have triggered the 43.3-inch gate closing of MOSE.”
Brugnaro said he had requested to speak with the Premier Giuseppe Conte to underline the urgency of the project, which would raise barriers when the tide reaches 43 inches. That happens on average four times a year.
The public transport company closed the water taxi service due to the emergency, with connections remaining active only to the outlying islands. The city, built on a series of islands, deals with the high water by erecting a series of risers that permit people to circulate by foot. Residents and businesses typically reinforce doors with metal or wooden panels to prevent water from entering bottom floors.
Much of Italy is under alert for flooding from heavy rains, a problem exacerbated by a lack of maintenance of river beds.
— AccuWeather (@accuweather) October 29, 2018
Veneto regional governor Luca Zaia says flooding could reach the levels of the 1966 flood that struck both Venice and Florence. In a message on Instagram, he called off schools in the region for a second day on Tuesday.