Cuenca streets turned to rivers Friday afternoon, flooding cars and buses and suspending tram service as a series of strong thunderstorms moved through the area. In neighborhoods on the city’s west and southwest side, accumulations of hail collapsed roofs and clogged building drains.
At two underpasses on Av. Las Americas, firemen carried elderly bus passengers and drivers out of hip-deep flood water to higher ground. Several condominiums, including Edif. Río Azul on Tres de Noviembre, suffered significant flood damage as the result of drains obstructed with ice.
In addition to causing flooding, several vehicles were damaged by hail, which measured between marble and golf-ball size in some areas. Windows of homes and business were also broken by hair strikes.
The National Meteorological Service said the storms affected most of the inter-Andean valley, from Quito in the north to the Peruvian border in the south. “It is unusual to experience such intense storms over such a large area but warm, sunny weather through the entire region and a flow of humid air from the Amazon combined to create the activity,” the service said in a statement.
The Cuenca weather office said that “hot weather conditions strengthened the effect of the storms,” reporting a high temperature of 24 degrees (75 Fahrenheit) at 3:30 p.m., shortly before the storms moved in.
Among hardest-hit areas were the Feria Libre market, Otogongo Plaza, Mariscal Lamar near Av. Las Americas, Av. Loja between Isabel La Católica Avenue and Primero de Mayo, and the intersection of Roberto Crespo and General Escandón.
Due to heavy rain the Cajas Mountains, the Yanuncay River overflowed its banks in three locations during the storm.
The weather service reported that the strongest storms had moved out of Cuenca by 7 p.m., leaving only light rain in their wake. The highest rainfall total was recorded in the El Cebollar sector, with 53 millimeters (2 inches).