Parts of Spain looked like a scene out of Tornado Alley on Monday as tornadoes, hail and flooding swept across the nation.
Hardest-hit was Arganda del Rey, a neighborhood about 10 miles southeast of downtown Madrid, the capital. The State Meteorological Agency issued an orange alert — level 3 out of 4 — for potential strong to severe thunderstorms. The agency says that corresponds to a “significant” risk.
A brief hailstorm came with the storm, reportedly lasting about 20 minutes. Nearly 10,000 lightning strikes were reported in a six-hour window, according to El Pais, amid storms that ground two metro lines in the city to a halt.
Exceptionally heavy rainfall turned Calle Juan de la Cierva, a historic one-lane street in Arganda del Rey’s Gran Habitat district, into a raging river. Cars and furniture can be seen in videos carried by the rapids, the swiftly moving current sweeping away any objects in its path. Whitecaps crest with a white glaze of their own, the river awash with millions of floating hailstones.
Why the localized disaster? It was similar to what unfolded in Ellicott City, Md., in 2016 and 2018. North of Arganda del Ray lie 200 to 500 foothills just south of Route 3, the main thoroughfare. To the south of the city, farms, forest and more hills. In between, Arganda del Rey’s topography funnels water to this particular one-lane street, which serves as a low point flanked by a half-mile stretch of urban city sloping upward to both the north and the south. From there, all the water sweeps down this road, almost like a gutter or cistern, before settling and dispersing some near the Parque Municipal Carlos González Bueno to the west.
Meanwhile, tornadoes spun up in Campillos, a town in the municipality of Malaga in southern Spain. The tornadoes appear to have been landspouts, which form when small eddies of swirling wind near the ground are carried upward and stretched by a growing storm’s updraft. A lowering “wall cloud” can be seen in one of the videos, attesting to the strength of rising motion up into the cloud.
The same storm system that produced Monday’s severe weather had largely exited mainland Spain on Tuesday, the front set to clear the coast later in the day. Mallorca, however, was under a red “extreme” warning on Tuesday afternoon for heavy rainfall and potential flash flooding. The State Meteorological Agency warned that more than 3½ inches of rain were possible in one hour. The agency said additional heavy downpours were possible later in the evening, albeit less intense.