Storm Gloria swamps Catalonia with wind and rain

By Tuesday evening, many rivers were on the point of bursting, while high waves flooded coastal areas

Fire truck traveling along a flooded street in Cambrils January 21, 2020 (by Núria Torres)
Fire truck traveling along a flooded street in Cambrils January 21, 2020 (by Núria Torres) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

January 21, 2020 07:30 PM

Catalonia appeared to be assaulted by water on all sides on Tuesday evening after a day of heavy rain and strong winds caused by Storm Gloria, which left a trail of destruction and disruption across the country.

The northern region of Girona was one of the areas most affected by the severe conditions, with the city of Girona under a flood alert due to the Onyar river, which runs through the center, threatening to burst its banks.

In fact, some 40 people were evacuated from their homes in the Girona town of Hostalric on Tuesday evening, due to the high risk of flooding as the level of the Tordera river continued to rise.

Flood alerts were also issued for other rivers, such as the Daró river in Bisbal d'Empordà, in Girona, and the Congost and Besòs rivers in Vallès Oriental, further south, not far from Barcelona.

Sea encroaches on coastal areas

However, the south of Catalonia was also heavily affected, with the beaches of the Ebre delta disappearing under the encroaching sea, which drowned some 3,000 hectares of rice fields in salt water. A third of the rice fields on the right bank of the Ebre delta and the whole island of Buda, also in the delta, were flooded.

Meanwhile, coastal towns on the nearby Costa Daurada were also flooded, with the beach disappearing in the popular tourist resort of Salou and seawater flooding the town's seafront neighborhoods.

Nor was Barcelona safe from the storm, as high waves driven on by 100km/h winds broke over the breakwater in the city's Port Olímpic neighborhood, sinking a boat that was moored in the marina.

It was a similar story further north, where the famous Costa Brava coastline was battered by high winds, with waves that were as high as 13 meters washing away beaches and flooding seafront promenades.

In the Costa Brava town of Tossa de Mar, locals witnessed the strange image of sea foam filling the streets. The local council gave assurances that this unusual occurrence was a natural phenomenon caused by the storm.

Monday began with major disruption

It was the result of a day of non-stop wind and rain that began on Sunday evening and intensified as Monday went on, causing damage and disruption from early in the morning all over the country.

The day began with cuts to one of Catalonia's most important highways, the AP-7, which connects with France. The highway was not reopened with traffic again moving in both directions until just before 1pm. 

Meanwhile, over 120,000 students missed school on Tuesday, primarily in the coastal area of Maresme, just north of Barcelona, and in the northern counties of Girona. 

At the same time, some 220,000 homes and businesses in the Girona area were left without electricity on Sunday night and into Monday morning after the storm knocked out a key high-voltage electricity tower.

With the rain increasing in some areas throughout Tuesday afternoon, the civil protection agency took the measure of preparing spaces for people who may find themselves forced out of their homes due to flooding. 

Snow was also a feature in the Catalan Pyrenees, with La Molina ski resort closing on Tuesday due to strong winds. Yet, the resort's head, Xavier Perpinyà, saw the bright side and was hopeful that the extra snow brought by Storm Gloria will bode well for the rest of the ski season.