A Stormy Week
Last Wednesday, really bad weather created by ‘Storm Helios’ hit the Maltese Islands as part of a deep weather depression that was situated over Algeria, moved across Libya towards the central Mediterranean, and it rained heavily for 24 hours non stop, which resulted in some flooding in Malta and Gozo, along with some damage to buildings caused by the very strong winds which reached 35 mph and gusts of 52 mph.
The road outside my apartment was flooded
The winds also caused very rough seas, with reports of waves reaching up to 5 metres (16 feet) high, although by Friday afternoon, the sea had calmed down quite a bit, but was still rough enough for a couple of pictures.
Prior to Helios, the most recent storm known as a ‘gregale’ storm, which was dubbed the ‘strongest of the decade’, struck the Maltese Islands in February 2019. During that storm, the highest wind gust recorded in Valletta was 82 mph.
This powerful storm tore its way through Malta, disrupting traffic, bringing down trees, causing power cuts, and producing heavy waves along the coast. The wind and waves were so strong, that fish were thrown out of the sea and onto the promenade at Xemxija (pronounced Shem Sheea). This resulted in lots of people braving the weather to go and pick them up to take home as a ‘free’ dinner. That storm was the worst to hit the Maltese Islands since October 1982.
Where does the name Helios come from?
The Malta Meteorological Office, is a member of the EUMETNET, which is a Storm Naming Central Mediterranean Group, and has offices in Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, North Macedonia and Montenegro.
At the beginning of every season, the Mediterranean national meteorological services decide on a list of names in alphabetical order which are then used for storms that hit the region throughout the season and are associated with very strong winds and/or red warnings for heavy rain. The first member country of the group to be hit by a particular storm has the responsibility of announcing it. Storm Helios is the eighth storm that is being named by the EUMETNET group for the 2022/2023 season. Such naming systems allow for more streamlined communications about storms and increase public awareness of severe weather events affecting multiple countries.
What is a Gregale storm?
The Gregale is a Mediterranean wind that can occur during times when a low pressure area moves through the area to the south of Malta and causes a strong, cool, northeasterly wind to affect the island. It also affects the other islands of the Western Mediterranean. The name comes from the Italian Grecala, which refers to the island of Zakynthos, in Greece.
Malta has its wettest February day on record after Storm Helios hit last Wednesday. Data from the national weather service shows that 140.4 mm (5.52 inches) of rainfall was measured at Malta International Airport, which beat the previous record of 123.7 mm (4.87 inches) on 19 February 1938.
The average rainfall for February is 65.9 mm (2.59 inches), meaning that Malta saw more than double the average monthly precipitation in just 24 hours.
As I write this (Sunday), the weather here is now much better. The wind has dropped,the sun is shining and the temperature is 14c.
I hope you have a great week.
Great article, keep up the good work
Sounds as though you are getting the same weather as we are here !