Genoa - “A record-breaking storm. The same kind of avalanche of water that battered Liguria ten years ago. Back then, crew on the ferry Fantastic were sorely tested, having to battle the waves and struggling to make it into Genoa’s port and escape the nightmare. Remember that?”.
Quite a coincidence. On October 30, 2008, the Ligurian coast was swept by huge waves that were awe-inspiring but also caused great damage and great concern to residents. It was as if the entire ocean was heaving along an impossible plane.
Fast forward ten years and we have a repeat performance; more destruction, the port of Rapallo obliterated, water surges on inland towns. “These two storms share similar characteristics,” says Alessandro Benedetti, researcher at the CNR-Icmate institute, and co-author of the book ‘Wave-watching: awe-inspiring storms in Liguria.’What makes you think they’re similar?
“The current storm arose from a low-pressure vortex that formed in the south-west of Corsica, and then moved north along the meridian. As it approached the Ligurian coast it gained in strength, and released its force on the coast of Liguria, first along its eastern part then its western. Exactly what happened in 2008; the difference, this time around, was that the low-pressure area rose over Sardinia and moved north, while 10 years ago it originated and remained in the middle of the Po Valley.”
This time the waves managed to make even large ships near Genoa break loose from their moorings, and the storm surge entered towns, flooding city centres.
“In the 2008 event waves reached the 6-meter mark, with winds in excess of 100 kilometres per hour. Some structural damage along the coast also occurred, and ships were hard put to find shelter in ports. This time waves may have reached the 5-6-meter mark, and the damage was widespread.”
A serious storm occurred even last year.
“Yes, between December 11th and 12th. Waves reached 4.8 meters in height then.”
Can such storms be predicted?
“The current weather phenomenon was recorded in maps a week in advance, including the low-pressure disturbance over Sardinia moving north. What those models failed to predict was the intensity of the wind, which emerged in all its strength only over the last couple of days.”
How can such destruction be prevented?
“In worst-case scenarios, such as this one, reinforcing coastal infrastructure over the 48-hour period preceding the storm is just not feasible. We can only help to safeguard human lives and movable property.”