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"Historic flooding event" in Greece dumps more than 2 feet of rain in just a few hours

Powerful storm washes cars into sea in Greece
Cars wash into the sea as "powerful" storm Daniel slams Greece 00:22

Greece is being hit with another round of extreme weather after weeks of experiencing drought, wildfires and intense heat. Within the span of just hours, some areas of the country received more than two feet of rain and at least one person was killed as the storm continued to move toward the Mediterranean Sea where it could transform into what's known as a "medicane."

In Zagora, there was a "jaw-dropping" rainfall of 21 inches from the storm, named Daniel, within just 10 hours on Tuesday, European Synchrotron Radiation Facility researcher Nahel Belgherze posted on social media. 

"An additional 300-500 mm, locally up to 600 mm, of rain could fall by Thursday," he said. "A historic flooding event is underway!" 

That amount of rain is equal to just under two feet. 

Data from French weather and climate monitor Keraunos shows that since Monday, Zagora has received 889 millimeters – nearly 3 feet – of rain. Several other cities have also received at least a foot of rain within that time. 

The rain seen in Zagora is more than 55 times higher than the average rainfall for September across Greece, which has an average rainfall for the month of 16 millimeters, according to the U.K. Meteorological Office.  

Storm hits central Greece
A fallen tree is seen in a flooded river during a storm in the city of Volos, Greece, September 5, 2023.   Sevina Dariotou/Eurokinissi via REUTERS

Videos posted by Greece's meteorological office show fast flooding across several cities on Tuesday. In Skiathos, the office said that the situation was "getting worse" throughout the afternoon. Other images show cars halfway submerged under floodwaters. And in Volos, the office said that some areas lost electricity and the Athens News Agency reported that one man was killed when flooding caused a wall to fall on top of him as he was trying to get to his sheep. Another man in the city is missing after being swept away by the waters, the agency said. 

Reuters confirmed the two men's situations, but local officials provided no further details.

"Daniel is developing into one of the most powerful storms that our country has experienced, with the daily rainfall in Central Greece far exceeding previous records, at least since 2006," the country's meteorological office wrote on Tuesday, saying that along with the man's death, the storm has also caused "significant infrastructure problems."  

The last daily rainfall record of 2.1 feet during Mediterranean Cyclone Janus in September 2020. 

The office said Monday that more than 7,000 lightning strikes were observed from the weather system, which they classified as a "category 5 precipitation event," meaning it's an "extreme" weather situation.

And it may only be getting worse for the region in the coming days. Weather forecasting site Severe Weather Europe says that Daniel could lead to the development of a medicane, a "tropical-like cyclone" in the Mediterranean. Weather models show such a system could form over the Ionian Sea this week, the forecasters said, as an ongoing marine heat wave fuels extreme weather. 

Medicanes usually need ocean temperatures of 26 degrees Celsius, just under 79 degrees Fahrenehit, to form, the forecasters said, and there has recently been "more than enough warmth in place to support the sub-tropical development." Weather models show that if it does form, it could bring wind gusts of roughly 62 miles per hour. It's unclear if it would be closer to Sicily and Malta or the Libyan coast. 

Warmer ocean temperatures are known to create conditions that can lead to more extreme weather. As temperatures increase, so does evaporation, putting more precipitation in the air that allows for storms to form. 

The flooding comes as Greece has been battling the European Union's "largest wildfire ever recorded." Just last week, Greece's fire service said the fire was "still out of control" in a nature reserve as the country continues to recover from the dozens of fires that broke out over the summer. 

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