Thundershowers fill Cuenca rivers but ‘much more’ rain is needed to end drought

Nov 28, 2016

Strong thunderstorms Sunday afternoon flooded some areas of Cuenca and refilled the city’s drought-stricken rivers. According to the national weather service, rain amounts ranged as high as 38 millimeters (1.5 inches) in some locations while others received as little as five (a quarter inch).

An eroded river bank. (El Tiempo)

An eroded Machángara river bank. (El Tiempo)

“This is very good news for Cuenca but it does not mean the drought is over,” said meteorologist Juan Ortiz. “We need a week or two of rains like this to restore our hydrologic systems.” The most important need, Ortiz added, is rainfall in the Cajas Mountains. “The Cajas are the water source for Cuenca and places to the east, so the most important factor in ending the drought is receiving large amounts of rainfall in the higher elevations west of Cuenca. The mountains are like a giant sponge that release the water a little at the a time and the consistency of the flow in very important.”

While Cuenca averages 995 (39 inches) millimeters of rainfall annually, the Cajas National Park receives more than 2800 (about 110 inches), according to Ortiz.

Sunday’s rains caused flooding is several neighborhoods, especially in Ricaurte, Sinincay, and Racar. City firefighters reported rescuing several drivers from flooded cars and relocating residents of four houses that were inundated along the Rio Machángara. Minor flooding was also reported on Av. Ordoñez Lasso, on the city’s west side.

Erosion caused river banks to collapse in several locations and city utilities workers were working Sunday night to re-route power lines affected by flooding.

The weather forecast is for 50% chances of rain today through Wednesday.

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