Floodwaters Hit 5-Foot Mark Again in Venice as Storms Affect Other Parts of Italy

weather.com
Published: November 17, 2019

Tourists were kept out of St. Mark’s Square for several hours again Sunday as floodwaters surged to nearly 5 feet in the ancient city of Venice.

It was the third time in a week that water rose to 59 inches or more, The Associated Press reported. Still, it was about 3 inches less than had been forecast.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has estimated damage from the flooding could reach $1.1 billion.

Churches, shops, museums and homes have been inundated in the city, a UNESCO world heritage site.

St. Mark’s Basilica, which has been damaged by the relentless flooding, remained closed Sunday. The Venetian newspaper, Il Gazzettino, reported that sandbags had been placed in the windows of the crypt to prevent water from flooding in again.

A city worker stops tourists entering a flooded St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, on Sunday, November. 17, 2019.
(AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Last Tuesday, water levels reached 6 feet, 1 inch above sea level, the highest flooding since 1966 and the second highest water level on record.

On Friday, the flooding again topped 5 feet as strong storms and winds battered the region.

Residents whose houses have been flooded are eligible for up to $5,525 in immediate government aid, while restaurant and shop owners can receive up to $22,100 and apply for more later, AFP reported.

"We weren't expecting the high waters to be so exceptionally high," cafe owner Guido Fulgenzi told the news agency as he waded in his flooded kitchen.

As the water rose again Sunday, Luca D’Acunto and his girlfriend Giovanna Maglietta wondered how to make their way to their nearby hotel.

“We made the reservation this week before the floods and had paid already, so we came,” D’Acunto, a 28-year-old from Naples, told AP. “Instead of a romantic trip, we’ll have an adventurous one.”

A man sits on a small boat in a flooded St. Mark's Square in Venice, Italy, Sunday, November 17, 2019.
(AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Built on a series of tiny islets amid a system of canals, Venice is particularly vulnerable to a combination of rising sea levels due to climate change coupled with the city’s well-documented sinking into the mud. The sea level in Venice is 4 inches higher than it was 50 years ago, according to the city’s tide office.

The flooding has left Italians exasperated at the incompletion of the city’s long-delayed Mose flood defense project. Mose consists of a series of moveable barriers in the lagoon that can be raised when high winds and high tides combine to threaten to send “acqua alta,’’ as the uniquely Venetian phenomenon is known, rushing across the city.

Completion of the multi-billion-euro project, under construction since 2003, has been delayed by corruption scandals, cost overruns and opposition from environmentalists worried about its effects on Venice’s delicate lagoon ecosystem.

More Damaging Storms

Floods were also hitting other parts of Italy on Sunday.

In Pisa, workers sandbagged the road along the rising Arno River, which was also surging through the heart of Florence, reaching a level near the Uffizi Galleries that was described as the highest in some 20 years. In 24 hours, 2.5 inches of rain had fallen in Florence, which was whipped by winds as high as 42 mph.

A popular Florence tourist attraction, the Boboli Gardens, was closed as a precaution while workers checked to see if the high winds might have weakened trees. Near another Tuscan town, Cecina, 500 people were evacuated when a local river swelled to the top of its banks.

In Italy’s mountainous Alto Adige, or South Tyrol region, a mid-autumn snowstorm triggered power outages and blocked roads in several Alpine valleys. The mayor of Val Martello, Georg Altstaetter, told state TV that an avalanche had damaged two houses but caused no injuries. Other homes were evacuated in the town as a precaution, he said.

A windstorm overnight in the Rome area toppled scores of trees, with two falling on cars, severely injuring a motorist, authorities said.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.


The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.