Italy’s bad weather ‘likely to last until end of May’

Italy's recent spell of wet and stormy weather shows no sign of letting up this week - and could last until the end of the month, if not beyond, say meteorologists.

Italy is expected to experience mostly bad weather until the end of May.
Italy is expected to experience mostly bad weather until the end of May. Photo by VALERY HACHE / AFP.

Forecasts showed a cyclone sweeping in from Tunisia in the early hours of Monday would bring heavy rain and possible floods to Sicily before moving up to the rest of the south and the centre of the country.

Emilia Romagna and Umbria in the centre-north of Italy face a risk of hailstorms, while gale-force winds of over 120km per hour are predicted along parts of the peninsula’s western coastline, with possible storm surges in Lazio, Campania and Calabria.

Italy’s Civil Protection Department issued a high-level red weather warning for parts of western Sicily, as well as a medium-high orange risk alert for Emilia Romagna.

Lower-level yellow alerts were issued for Abruzzo, Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Molise and Puglia, and parts of Sicily and Emilia Romagna.

Schools were closed on Monday in the Sicilian capital of Palermo, as Mayor Roberto Lagalla encouraged residents to limit their travel as far as possible and avoid underpasses and watercourses.

Italy has already experienced 89 storms so far in the first half of May, according to the farmer’s association Coldiretti, causing damage to crops along the length of the peninsula.

Recent forecasts indicate that parts of the country could receive two months’ worth of rain in the space of a few days, bringing the risk of flash floods.

Meteorologists say Italy’s unseasonably wet weather is due to the prolonged absence of an anticyclone, which typically brings stable conditions and clear skies.

It was a series of African anticyclones that last year caused a months-long heatwave in Italy that lasted throughout the spring and into the summer.

This absence of an anticyclone is a state of affairs that could persist “at least until the end of the month”, according to meteorologist Mattia Gussoni from the weather site ilmeteo – though there will be pockets of calm with higher temperatures.

In fact, forecasts from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts indicate that frequent cool and rainy phases could continue into June and even as far into the summer as August.

Extreme bad weather in Emilia Romagna earlier this month has caused an estimated at one billion euros of damage in the Romagna and Bologna areas, according to news outlets.

Two people lost their lives in the storms, one person swept in a flash flood as he tried to cycle down a path and another after their home was crushed under a landslide caused by the downpours.

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Four dead after boat overturns on Italy’s Lake Maggiore

Four people, including members of the Italian and Israeli intelligence services, died when a boat overturned on Lake Maggiore in strong winds, officials said on Monday.

Four dead after boat overturns on Italy's Lake Maggiore

The boat tipped over on Sunday evening off Lisanza, at the southern end of the lake in northern Italy, after the weather suddenly turned stormy.

“The bodies of four people have been recovered,” fire brigade spokesman Luca Cari told AFP.

Israel’s foreign ministry said one of the dead was a former member of the country’s security forces in his fifties.

Two others were Italian, a 62-year-old man and a 53-year-old woman who both worked in the intelligence services, Italy’s security services said.

“The two employees, belonging to the intelligence department, were taking part in a convivial meeting organised to celebrate the birthday of one of the group,” it said.

Media reports said the fourth victim was a 50-year-old Russian woman, the partner of the boat’s captain.

President of the Lombardy region Attilio Fontana said on Sunday a “whirlwind” had caused the 16-metre-long boat to overturn.

Firefighters on Sunday said 19 people had survived the accident, with media reports suggesting some had been picked up by passing boats while others swam to shore.

The boat had been carrying both Italian and foreign tourists, and it sank quickly, taking one of the victims with it, according to reports.

A firefighters’ video showed a search and rescue helicopter flying over choppy waters, where chairs and other debris could be seen floating.

Lake Maggiore, which lies on the south side of the Alps, is the second largest lake in Italy and a popular tourist destination.

Initial reports that some of the tourists involved were British were denied by an embassy official.