After heavy thunderstorms in southern Austria overnight caused severe flooding that drove rivers over their banks and cut off many communities from the recovery efforts, at least one person died and another was reported missing.
The storms rolled in overnight from Italy and Slovenia, along Austria’s southern border, said Michael Tiefgraber, a meteorologist with Austria’s national weather service, the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics. He estimated that approximately 5.5 inches (or nearly 14 centimeters), of rain fell over seven hour before it tapered off around 9 a.m., local time.
The national broadcaster ORF reported that a river near Arriach overflowed in sections and that the road leading to the village was destroyed in many places. A hydropower station just outside of Arriach was “severely damaged,” its operator said.
The village, about 20 miles north of Austria’s border with Slovenia, had no electricity or cellphone service, complicating efforts to rescue or aid residents, Mr. Tiefgraber said.
At least one death was reported in Treffen. Fire department officials said that an 82-year old man was found dead after he was swept away in floods.
ORF reported that the Pöllinger Bach, which is normally a creek, had torn through Treffen, bringing with it rubble, tree trunks and “several meters” of mud. One hundred soldiers from Austria’s army were present with heavy machinery and helped to clean up.
Gerhard Hohenwarter (a meteorologist) said that it was a record for the amount of rain that fell in one event in Carinthia, Austria. He said that the previous record, which was set in June 1969, was 4.2inches over a 20-hour period.
Mr. Hohenwarter stated that the region has had unusually high temperatures during June.
“Warmer air can capture more humidity than dry air, and then you need the perfect setting to let it go,” he said. “Now, these thunderstorms are really very severe and very strong.”
Although it is impossible to draw a direct connection between one heavy rain and climate change immediately, scientists may attempt to do so by conducting what is called an attribution study over the next weeks or months.
After the devastating summer floods in Germany and Belgium last year, scientists discovered that the record rainfall that caused the flooding was a 400 year event. This means that there was a 1-in-4 chance that such a downpour would occur in the region in any given year.
This analysis revealed that while rare, such an event is 1.2 to 9.9 times more likely today than it was 100 years ago due to human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases.
Christine Hauser reported in London, Christopher F. Schuetze in Berlin.
Source: NY Times