Spain and Portugal – Storm Elsa Brings Deadly Winds and Floods

Storm Elsa brought winds of 160 km/h and heavy rain across parts of northern Portugal and Spain on 19 December, 2019. At least 2 weather related fatalities were reported in Portugal and 2 more in northern Spain. Meanwhile flooding also affected parts of Andalusia region in southern Spain and strong winds caused power outages in southern France.

Damaging floods hit Reinosa in Cantabria, Spain, 19 December. Photo: Protección Civil Piélagos


In Portugal, strong winds caused severe damage, downing trees and power lines, affecting Porto, Aveiro, Coimbra, Viseu, Braga and Lisbon. Around 70 people have been evacuated from their homes.

One person died after a vehicle was hit by a falling tree in Montijo in Setúbal District near Lisbon. A second fatality was reported in Viseu after a building collapsed. One person is also reported missing in Viseu.

Viseu recorded 120.1mm of rain on 19 December, according to Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA) figures. During the same period, Covilhã recorded 129mm of rain, Moimenta da Beira 131.4mm and Guarda 139.5mm.

Heavy rain from the storm caused the Agueda river to break its banks in Agueda in Aveiro district on 20 December 2019.

Northern Spain

Emergency services in the Galicia region have received over 1,500 calls for assistance, including 118 floods, as well as landslides, fallen trees and power lines. Media in Spain report that one person died in Santiago de Compostela when a wall collapsed during the storm. A second fatality occurred after a landslide in the town of Puenxo in Aller Municipality in the Principality of Asturias.

Dramatic flooding struck in the municipality of Reinosa in the Cantabria Region, where the Ebro, Híjar and Izarilla rivers all broke their banks. Videos share on Social Media showed streets turned to rivers as cars were swept away.

At least 4 people were evacuated and over 20 confined to the upper floods of their homes. Emergency services received over 300 calls for assistance and responded to over 100 interventions. Several roads in the area have been closed.

The Híjar river in Reinosa reached a record high of 3.59 metres on 19 December, 2019. The previous high was 2.23 metres set in 2010. Reinosa recorded 85.8mm of rain on 19 December. Alto Campoo, also in Cantabria, recorded 103.5mm.

Levels of the Hijar River in Reinosa, Cantabria. Image: Confederación Hidrográfica del Ebro
Officials survey the flood damage in Reinosa, Cantabria, Spain December 2019. Photo: Gobierno Cantabria

Southern Spain

The effects of storm Elsa were also seen in Huelva Province in Andalusia Region, southern Spain, where dozens of homes were flooded and cars left stranded. Worst hit was the town of Nerva. No injuries or fatalities were reported, as of early 20 December.


Meanwhile strong winds left 140,000 homes without electricity in southern and eastern France. Homes were also reported damaged by the wind, including in Saint-Etienne near Lyon, where 17 people had to be evacuated when the roof of a building was torn off, according to AFP.

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