Extreme weather caused a torrential arc from inland areas to the coast

  • The provincial record was broken with 396mm of rain in 24 hours at Ardales during the low pressure weather phenomenon known as a cut-off low, or 'Dana' in Spanish

The rain that fell in just 24 hours last weekend was a record for all of Malaga province. The figure of 396mm was recorded at the inland village of Ardales in the 24 hours from midday on Saturday, with most of this, 309mm, falling in just 12 hours in the first half of Sunday.

The previous record in Malaga province was 31mm on the 27 September 1957 at Malaga airport. However, more recently, in November 1989, significant flooding was caused in Malaga city when almost 500mm of rain fell, but over several days. The average rainfall for Malaga city in a whole year is 550mm.

Meteorologists put the rainfall down to an isolated pocket of cold air that breaks away from main weather systems and is termed a cut-off low. This phenomenon, which is known in Spanish as a 'Dana' - Depresión Aislada en Niveles Altos (isolated depression at high altitude), is common along the Mediterranean coast of Spain and its movements are hard to predict with frequent changes in direction. Over the Mediterranean it collects water and tends to deposit it in torrential downpours once reaching land. It means some areas can get drenched while others nearby stay dry.

Although a red warning had been issued for a 'Dana' last Saturday, it had been for the Costa del Sol and earlier in the day. In the end, it was the inland part of the province that was taken by surprise later than expected after dark.

In Campillos, one of the first areas to be affected and one of the worst damaged, 317mm was recorded with nearby towns and villages registering over 100mm.

The 'Dana' then moved off southwestwards, leaving persistent rain behind for several hours, and affected Ardales, Casarabonela, El Burgo and Yunqueras and other areas of the upland Sierra de las Nieves.

Ronda, next in its southwesterly path, received 217mm of rain up to midday on Sunday.

The cut-off low moved south, soaking the Sierra de Ronda villages, over the Sierra Bermeja mountain range and onto coastal Estepona, Casares and Manilva, before finally moving out to sea again. Estepona saw 110mm in the 24 hours to midday on Sunday and some 140mm in total by the end of Sunday.

There was good news for local water reserves. Levels in the Guadalteba and Guadalhorce reservoirs, where the first wave of heaviest rain fell, increased significantly.