A Freak Hail Storm Just Turned Rome’s Streets Into Ice Rivers

Oct 24, 2018

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Hail, Caesar! On Sunday, Rome was hit by a freak hailstorm that left the city looking like a winter wonderland.

After days of unseasonably warm temperatures reaching the mid to high 70s, the bizarre storm pummeled the Eternal City with strong winds, torrential rain, floodwaters and knee-high ice drifts. The unprecedented weather created an unusual sight of summery, green-leafed trees surrounded by a snow-like blanket of ice.

Roman roads were quickly transformed into frozen rivers by the accumulating hail, and drivers were left with no choice but to abandon their cars. Some vehicles were almost fully covered, forcing drivers to scramble onto their car roofs and wait for emergency response services.

At least six metro stations were forced to close after the storm runoff flooded the city’s A and B lines, the Italian press reported. And even some tourist destinations were closed amid the chaos of the storm, such as the San Sebastiano Fuori le Mura — a basilica with catacombs. Here, more than a foot and a half of water covered the historic floors.

The wacky weather also affected other Italian cities, including Milan, Bologna and Sicily. Overnight emergency teams worked to get the roads back to normal in time for the Monday commute, but continued flooding in southern Italy was still being reported on Tuesday. The weather forecast is predicting temperatures back in the 70s for the rest of the week.

As a result of the severe weather event, the Italian news agency Ansa reported that the last of the olives that had survived the spring freeze in the region of Lazio were destroyed.

It seems that this generally rare phenomenon is becoming more common in Italy. Back in August, the Italian island of Sardinia was blasted with almost a foot of hail. Sardinia was also in the middle of a heat wave prior to the hail storm, though temperatures there exceeded 95 degrees. Sardinia’s squall caused temperatures to plummet into the low 50s, but the mercury quickly bounced back into the 90s just days later.

According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL), an arm of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration agency, “there is no clear distinction between storms that do and do not produce hailstones.”

“Nearly all severe thunderstorms probably produce hail aloft, though it may melt before reaching the ground,” NSSL stated on its website.

With a heavy thunderstorm in the forecast for Rome on Saturday, tourists planning to visit the Italian city may want to pack an umbrella. Or better yet, a helmet.

Feature photo by TIZIANA FABI / AFP / Getty Images.

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