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Two Dead as Venice Faces Worst Floods in 50 Years

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Two Dead as Venice Faces Worst Floods in 50 Years
A general view of the flooded St. Mark's Square after an exceptional overnight "Alta Acqua" high tide water level, on Nov. 13 in Venice. MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP / Getty Images

Two people have died as Venice has been inundated by the worst flooding it has seen in more than 50 years, The Guardian reported Wednesday.


One elderly man was found electrocuted on the island of Pellestrina when he was struck by lightning while operating an electric water pump. The body of a second man was found in his home.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro announced on Twitter Tuesday night that he would declare a state of emergency Wednesday.

"These are the effects of climate change," he wrote.

The "acqua alta," or high tide, came up to 187 centimeters (approximately 73.6 inches) Tuesday night, according to a government statement reported by CNN. That's just below the highest tide ever recorded at 194 centimeters (approximately 76.4 inches) in 1966. Another surge is expected Wednesday, according to The Guardian.

This year's flood comes just one year after the city also saw major flooding in the fall. Last year's flooding caused €2.2 million (approximately $2.42) worth of damage to St. Mark's Basilica, according to The Guardian. And the famous church was inundated again this year, BBC News reported.

"Venice is on its knees," Brugnaro said in a tweet reported by the Associated Press. "St. Mark's Basilica has sustained serious damage like the entire city and its islands."

The church has flooded six times in 1,200 years, and four of those floods were in the last 20, St. Mark's council member Pierpaolo Campostrini told BBC News.

In total, Tuesday's floods inundated more than 85 percent of the city, the Associated Press reported. At least 60 boats were damaged, and the Venice hotel association said that it faced massive damage at its properties: Power went out and guests had to be evacuated to higher floors.

Venice is the Mediterranean World Heritage Site currently most at risk from flooding due to sea level rise, a 2018 study found.

Brugnaro promised completion of the "Moses" project to protect Venice from flooding by building offshore barriers, The Guardian reported. Construction began in 2003 but has been delayed, partly due to a corruption scandal.

But Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region, told SkyTG24 that he did not know if the barriers would be effective against flooding like Tuesday's, the Associated Press reported.

"Despite 5 billion euros under water, St. Mark's Square certainly wouldn't be secure," Zaia said. The iconic square is one of the city's lowest points.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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