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Violent thunderstorms spawn unprecedented tornadoes, produce giant hail in Italy

Violent thunderstorms spawn unprecedented tornadoes and produce giant hail in Italy

Italy confronts contrasting weather extremes as violent thunderstorms, accompanied by giant hailstones, struck northern parts of the country on July 24, 2023, leaving two people dead and causing widespread destruction. In contrast, southern Italy grapples with persistent heatwaves, causing wildfires and the temporary closure of Palermo airport. Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci described the current conditions as some of the most complicated Italy has faced in recent decades.

Northern Italy woke up to unprecedented weather chaos on July 24 when violent thunderstorms, accompanied by giant hailstones, swept across the region, causing extensive damage and claiming the lives of two individuals.

A 16-year-old girl on a camping trip was one of the victims. The young girl lost her life when a tree, uprooted due to high winds and torrential rain, crashed onto her tent during a scout camp near Brescia. Similarly, a woman died in Lissone, north of Milan, after being struck by a falling tree.

Milan suffered heavy disruption due to the storm, with roofs torn off, trees uprooted, roads blocked, parked cars damaged, and overground transportation severely affected. Furthermore, the city’s electricity network sustained serious damage, with the water supply in the historic center temporarily shut off. Firefighters reported receiving over 200 calls for help across Milan since 04:00 local time, terming the situation “very serious.”

Residents of the town of Brescia, also in Lombardy, reported hailstones the size of tennis balls. The storm started around 21:30 LT on Monday, one of the residents told RTL. “The hailstones were the size of tennis balls. All the vehicles outside were dented, not a single one was spared,” he said.

“We helped the injured, as my wife is a first aider. She assisted a person who was injured in the hand because their windshield had exploded. Outside, it was impossible to walk or drive due to the severity of the storm.”

The storm that hit Italy yesterday comes just a couple of days after intense thunderstorms brought hail measuring 12 cm (4.7 inches) in diameter in the Veneto region and a destructive tornado in Milan.

Lombardy Governor, Attilio Fontana, stated that tornadoes that have ripped across Lombardy causing two deaths have never been seen before in the northern region.

The governor also warned of the significant damage, which is estimated to exceed €100 million. He is presently collecting data to request a state of emergency declaration from the government.

European hail record broken again

Less than a week after setting a new European record, a hailstone 19 cm (7.48 inches) in diameter was found in Azzano Decimo yesterday.

“The previous record of 16 cm (6.29 inches) in Carmignano di Brenta from July 19 lasted for only five days,” the European Severe Storms Laboratory (ESSL) reports.

On July 24, at about 23:00 LT in the evening, giant hail hit the town of Azzano Decimo, where the record-breaking hailstone was found. Azzano Decimo is located in the province of Pordenone in the Italian region Friuli Venezia Giulia.

After a thorough examination of the reports and photos, the specialists of the European Severe Weather Database (ESWD) came to the conclusion, that the diameter of this hailstone can be confirmed as 19 cm (7.48 inches).

The new hailstone already comes very close to the world record of a hailstone from July 23, 2010, in Vivian, South Dakota, with a diameter of 20.3 cm (8 inches).

The high frequency of hail in Northern Italy is consistent with research results of the ESSL, showing, that this region has experienced the largest increase in the frequency of large hail, compared to other European regions in the past decades.

Heatwave and wildfires in the south

On the other hand, Southern Italy continues to reel under intense heatwaves, with temperatures peaking at 47.6 °C (117.7 °F) in Catania, Sicily. The sweltering conditions have resulted in widespread wildfires, which temporarily forced the closure of Palermo airport.

Firefighters spent a strenuous night battling these fires, one of which disrupted local road and rail traffic and caused a fatality when an ambulance could not reach a woman’s home due to the blaze.

Italy’s Civil Protection Department reported extensive fires across the south, with air support requested for multiple incidents in Sicily, Calabria, and Sardinia.

Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci described the current conditions as some of the most complicated Italy has faced in recent decades.

References:

1 Tornadoes never seen before says Lombardy chief – ANSA – July 25, 2023

2 One of the most difficult days in decades – Musumeci – ANSA – July 25, 2023

3 Storms in northern Italy, wildfires in Sicily – RTE – July 25, 2023

Featured image credit: Vigili del Fuoco

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