Mamma Mia! Summer storms hit Skiathos

Thunderstorms and prolonged heavy rain aren’t what you usually associate with the Aegean in August. So to experience three days in a row of inclement weather must be rare in this beautiful part of Europe.

Water from the hills above turned local roads into rivers

Water from the hills above turned local roads into rivers

Arriving at the end of a heatwave the owner of my hotel in Skiathos remarked that humidity had been particularly high though temperatures had cooled from the previous week’s level of 36C – not bad in itself but when you consider the low fell to just 27.1C those sorts of values make it impossible to sleep without air conditioning.

Sunshine on the first couple of days came to an abrupt end on the Friday night with the arrival of the first disturbance – the sound of thunder and torrential rain audible above the low buzz of the air conditioning. The storm gradually cleared in the morning to leave sunny spells by the afternoon.

This process repeated itself over the next couple of days although by the third night only heavy rain developed. Since returning to the UK I’ve had a look at statistics from a weather station located on the north of the island near Kastro. Rain totals on August 21st, 22nd and 23rd were 36.2mm, 39.2mm and 34mm respectively – bringing the total for the month to 113mm, nearly three times what fell last August. Looking at national Greek totals on Ogimet the disturbance was very localised.

Torrents of water from the storms caused deep scars in the landscape. I spotted this at the edge of an olive grove during a walk through a forest to Mandraki

Torrents of water from the storms caused deep scars in the landscape. I spotted this at the edge of an olive grove during a walk through a forest to Mandraki

The torrents of rain carved deep gorges in the paths that criss-cross the island. And during a walk from Koukounaries to Madraki part of the impacted sand/soil road down to the beach had been washed away.

Locals didn’t seem that phased by it and judging by the number of tavernas with wind down sides to their awnings it is perhaps a common feature of the climate?

Mean temperature for August was 0.3C up on last year: 27C, though the number of days of >32C was nearly half last year.

The island, part of the Sporades, is famous for being the location where the hit musical Mamma Mia was filmed – though most filming was done on neighbouring Skopelos. It’s a very green area – much more so than southern islands I’ve visited such as Ios and Crete which are arid by comparison.

During a visit to Skopelos, which has a landscape that looks almost Alpine from a distance with its pine forested hills, I was puzzled by the lack of wind turbines, especially considering how reliable wind seems to be in the surrounding waters.

One of the many stunning beaches on Skiathos. This bay is close to Mandraki

One of the many stunning beaches on Skiathos. This bay is close to Mandraki

Greece does have an extensive wind power programme though much of it is based in the mountains in the north. EU politics over energy tariffs also probably play a part.

Thunderstorms also played a part on our flight home. As we crossed the mountains of Macedonia and the Balkans to the north I could see vast cumulonimbus begin to form. The pilot made an excellent job of keeping turbulence to a minimum by steering us around these forces of nature – a couple of which reached above our cruising altitude of 39,000ft.

* Storms also affected Skiathos and Skopelos in September. A weather station on Skopelos reported 209.6 mm on 22nd September, with an additional 56.2mm on the day before and 49.2mm the day after. The month there has abundantly given 317mm, but this is *not* the wettest area of Greece for September so far. The very warm seas at this time of the year have given numerous places a lot of precipitation, backed up, of course, by great support aloft .

The storm caused much damaged and devastation to infrastructure in the towns in Skopelos.

A news report here

The island of Skopelos is even more stunning than Skiathos

The island of Skopelos is even more stunning than Skiathos

Much convection could be seen developing during the flight home as we crossed Macedonia and the Balkan mountains to the north

Much convective development could be seen during the flight home as we crossed Macedonia and the Balkan mountains to the north

The pilot made a good job of steering round the storms. It made a change to see these beasts from above - though some still developed higher than our 39,000ft cruising altitude

The pilot made a good job of steering round the storms. It made a change to see these marvels of nature from above – though some still developed higher than our 39,000ft cruising altitude

In a shop close to Koukounaries beach I noticed this selection of snowy pictures that were taken on the island a few years ago. Being north of Athens it is not surprising that they occasionally see snow here

In a shop close to Koukounaries beach I noticed this selection of snowy pictures that were taken on the island a few years ago. Being north of Athens it is not surprising that they occasionally see snow here

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