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'Unprecedented' flooding event wreaks havoc in Uruguay capital of Montevideo

By Renee Duff, Accuweather.com
'Unprecedented' flooding event wreaks havoc in Uruguay capital of Montevideo
A car is seen displaced behind a house in Montevideo, Uruguay, on Monday after heavy rains caused severe flooding. Photo via Accuweather

Jan. 19 -- A deluge struck Uruguay's capital of Montevideo at the beginning of this week, causing chaotic scenes across the city as streets were left underwater after more than a month's worth of rain fell over the course of several hours.

The torrent of rain began Sunday night and continued through Monday morning, pouring down at a pace too quick for the ground to properly absorb and storm drains to keep up.

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Two to 4 inches of rain fell in downtown Montevideo with up to 5 inches recorded in Canelones, located about 25 miles north of the city. The highest rainfall total was reported in Carrasco, a neighborhood on the east side of Montevideo, where 6 inches fell. Uruguay's meteorological service, Inumet, said that most of the rain fell within a 2-hour window early Monday.

The average precipitation for the entire month of January in Montevideo is just 2.90 inches.

Residents who weren't awakened by the heavy rain, thunder and lightning during the middle of the night woke up to scary scenes Monday morning, as streets throughout the city turned into raging rivers that swept away vehicles and other objects. Among the objects included a dumpster being tossed down a street by the fast-moving floodwaters.

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A flood of simultaneous requests for help caused the telephone lines to go down at the National Directorate of Firefighters, according to MercoPress, a news agency covering Latin America and the South Atlantic.

By mid-morning, the department had received nearly 150 evacuation requests and 37 reports of fallen trees. Around 12,000 people were affected by power outages.

The official Twitter page of the city of Montevideo posted images of crews delivering mattresses and cleaning kits to various neighborhoods across the city Tuesday morning. City officials said they were utilizing all of their available resources to deal with the "unprecedented" event. Bulldozers have been called in to clear the mounds of debris off of roadways.

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There were no immediate reports of deaths or injuries due to the severe flooding.

In addition to the intensity of the rainfall, the extremely dry state of the ground due to an ongoing drought likely added to the severity of the floods. Ground that is very dry is less able to absorb water which causes an excess of runoff, especially if the rain is coming down as quickly as it did Monday morning.

This latest flooding event is part of a string of extreme weather that has occurred in South America over the past few weeks, including a historic heat wave in portions of Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay and a deadly rockfall associated with heavy rain at a tourist attraction in southeastern Brazil.

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As cleanup efforts continue across Montevideo and surrounding areas, forecasters say that more rain could lead to additional problems.

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"It looks like it remains unsettled across that region through much of the week with several rounds of rain and thunderstorms moving through," AccuWeather Meteorologist Tony Zartman said, adding that an additional 1-3 inches of rain with locally higher amounts could occur.

Even if the heaviest rain stays away from the hard-hit flood areas, Zartman warned that it would not take very much rain to cause additional flooding problems.

Scenes from the season's snow and ice

Rainfall and warmer weather brings a low fog to a snowy Central Park near the Bethesda Fountain and Terrace in New York City on February 3, 2022. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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