Rivers run high as a late rainy season brings lousy weather to the sierra

Jun 22, 2019 | 6 comments

If you’ve been complaining about the weather lately you’re not alone. Unseasonably cool and rainy conditions have plagued most of the Ecuadorian Andes for more than a week.

Flooding washed out a highway east of Banos de Ambato on Thursday. (El Comercio)

Friday morning, Cuenca’s four rivers were running at near record levels with the Rio Tomebamba flowing at almost four times its normal rate.

East of Cuenca, high water pushed tree limbs and brush against two bridges on the Rio Santa Barbara near Gualaceo, forcing their temporary closure. To the north, landslides and flooding have closed highways between Quito and the Amazon and in Baños de Ambato.

According to meteorologists, intermittent rain and low temperatures will continue until early next. “We are experiencing a delayed winter,” says Lenin Álvarez of ETAPA’s Hydrometeorological Network. “Typically, dry weather begins in late May or early June but the wet season had a late start this year. Based on our long-term forecast, we believe we will return to seasonal weather next week and will begin to dry out.”

Cuenca’s Rio Tomebamba was running high on Friday. (El Teimpo)

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Álvarez adds that the wet weather, caused by Pacific and Amazonian air masses colliding over the sierra, have also brought below normal temperatures. On Thursday and Friday, daytime temperatures in Cuenca did not rise above 15 degrees Celsius (59F). “We should return to the norms next week,” Álvarez says.

The regional risk management office reported Friday that several highways in the Cuenca area were closed on Friday due to the weather. Among them were routes connecting Cuenca and Gualaceo, Paute and Méndez, Cuenca and Girón and Cuenca-Molleturo. Barring additional flooding and landslides, it expects most of the roads to be open Saturday.

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