Yesterday the wind 💨 blew very strong all day in the Venetian lagoon.
It's called Scirocco and it blows from South-East
I remember my surprise when, as a child 👧, my mother explained to me why it was a hot and sticky wind even in winter: because it comes from the 🐫 Sahara desert!
And what was my surprise when I discovered the thin layer of ocher yellow sand settled everywhere: the Sirocco had transported it from so far !!!
This wind is one of the factors responsible for the high water phenomenon as it prevents the normal 2 daily high tides from flowing back into the Adriatic Sea.
I am not a meteorologist or a sea expertbut let me explain very simply how it works.
Theacqua alta (high water, that's how we call it) has been scourging the Venetian lagoon since the dawn of time (we are talking about pre-Roman times). The triggers are many but they must all converge together.
The full moon and/or new moon, which are known to strengthen and draw the tides perpendicularly towards our satellite.
The scirocco wind above or the freezing Bora windwich blows from East-North-East. One or the other: if they blow together it's a real disaster, as unfortunately happened on the night of November 12, 2019 during the one we baptized Aqua Granda (Great Water in Venetian dialect): 187 cm above the mid-sea were reached in less than half an hour. The sad record of 1966 flood was not achieved by only 6 cm.
A few days of persistent, thin but constant rain, like the typically British one 🙂.
And of course a high tide. Even in Venice there are 4 in 24 hours: one that goes up and one that goes down, one that goes up and one that goes down, entering the lagoon from the Adriatic Sea and flowing out the lagoon into the same sea.
In the presence of all these factors, the first high tide of the day lingers in the lagoon for hours and hours, hampered by the wind, the rain and the moon, until the second high tide comes in. In short, a high tide above another high tide.
A bit clearer now?
Venice is an archipelago of 118 islands joined by 434 bridges (more or less: the various guidebooks do not agree but it doesn't really matter): try to count the steps going up and going down, it may be that the number does not coincide! Every time you cross a bridge in Venice, in fact, you go from one island to another that may not bear the same sea level as the first!
That's why Piazza San Marco is always the first spot of the city to be flooded: because it's the lowest (who knows why!). For tourists it can be a curious and exotic diversion but for the Venetians it is a neverending struggle made up of countless moving up and down of goods, furnitures and objects of homes, shops, restaurants, etc.
Below you will find some nice cartoons to easily understand how the level of the high water phenomenon is calculated inthe City. See? Don't be scared when you hear numbers and centimeters on the media: be informed and come and visit us anyway! Contact me to get first-hand information, advice or suggestions for a water-proof, tailor-made toure xperience! In any case, the flooding, except in exceptional cases, lasts only a couple of hours.
When Saint Mark's is flooded it doesn't mean that the rest of the fish (have you ever noticed that Venice is shaped like a fish?) is , as each one of these islands could be at a different sea level. We know this and we try to get by with pumps, bulkheads, gangways and if that's not enough, off we wear rubber boots!
For 30 years a project has been on work progress to safeguard the city and has also ended up in newspapers and on TV several times due to delays, corruption, trials, etc. This project bears a somewhat ironic name: MOSE (actually it is the acronym for electromechanical experimental module) but so be it. These are 78 gates housed in huge concrete caissons located at the three port mouths (inlets) of the Venetian lagoon. In the event of an exceptional high tide, these dams rise preventing the Adriatic Sea from entering the lagoon. I will not pause on scandals and political and environmental implications: this is not the place.
Now everything is easier because there are smartphone applications that warn and inform us in real time and in fine details about the state of alert. Up to not very long ago citizens were alerted with the same sirens that used to go off during WWII to warn of imminent bombing (such a creepy sound for someone who wasn't even there at the time: I can't imagine how seniors must be feeling!). Six tones, increasingly acute, up to the maximum alert, like the night of November 12, 2019.
Pay attention though: we don't want the tides to stop from rising and ebbing. They are vital for the delicate balance of a such fragile and unique system. Have you ever wondered why there's no malaria in Venice? Yet the conditions would all be there. Almost. In fact, the tides guarantee a change of salty water twice a day, up to the most remote of inner canals.
The MOSE is not ready yet but with the first floods of the season the technicians took the opportunity to carry out tests in a real critical situation, since until now the dams had only been tested in ordinary tide conditions.
Well, as we all know on Saturday 3rd October 2020, with an exceptional high tide expected in mid-morning, the gates held and the City of Sirens (this is a word pun as "siren"in Italian means siren and mermaid) was spared, to the great relief of the citizens, already struggling with a very heavy situation due to covid-19.
Tonight the Scirocco is back more ruthless and overbearing than ever. It is strangely warm for December, an eerie heat that we know well. The wind insists, it gives no respite. It makes me restless and agitated. It rains ☔️ very hard too.
Will the high tide be a sever one? Will MOSE dams system work? Will everything be alright?
Will we go back to a reasonable normality?