Unseasonable rains cause flooding northeast of Cuenca; Weather agency blames La Niña system

Jul 5, 2022 | 13 comments

More than 20 properties, including 15 hectares of planted crops, have been flooded near Gualaceo as the San Francisco and Santa Bárbara Rivers overflowed their banks Sunday and Monday morning. Flooding was also reported near Paute due to a weather system that has dropped as much as 70 millimeters (2.75 inches) of rain in some areas of Azuay Province.

A landslide on the Matrama-Rivera highway, east of Cuenca, has cut off access to the Mazar hydroelectric power plant.

The rains have triggered landslides in several locations, including on the Cajas highway near Molleturo, and has contaminated the drinking water for 2,000 households in Capzha.

In Cuenca, three of the city’s four rivers were running just below flood stage Tuesday morning and officials are warning residents to stay away from river banks. The weather station at the airport has recorded 18 millimeters (.71 inches) of rain since Saturday. Flooding and landslides are also being reported from Quito to Loja.

According to the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (INAMHI), the entire inter-mountain Andean valley has experienced unseasonable amounts of rainfall in the last 72 hours, with some areas receiving more than 85 millimeters or rain.

“This is an unusual weather system for this time of year,” says  INAMHI meteorologist Cristian Paliz, who blames it on the La Niña phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean. “July is typically the driest month of the year in the sierra but La Niña has disrupted normal patterns.”

Paliz says a large fetch of humid air is being drawn into the Andes and inter-mountain valley from the Amazon region and then collides with cool air coming over the mountains from the west. “In La Niña conditions, the surface of the Pacific Ocean is cooler than normal, disrupting seasonal weather patterns.”

According to Paliz, the current La Niña has intensified in recent weeks, bringing rainy, cloudy weather. “We have not seen a La Niña of this strength since the 1950s and we see no indication that it will break down soon.”

He added that Ecuador “has it easy” compared to Australia and New Zealand, which are experiencing record flooding as a result of La Niña.

Paliz said cool, rainy condition will continue in the sierra for at least two more days.

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