Rain & Snow Cause Chaos In World's Driest Desert
Life in the 600-mile stretch of Chile's Atacama Desert has been a little chaotic lately. Production at Copper mines has been disrupted, highways blocked, football games cancelled, rooftops have collapsed and, the list goes on and on - The culprit? A 'wet' July that ushered in 3-feet of snow on the mountain ranges, and as much as, one whole inch of rain in the lower-lying areas.
While to most of us these amounts seem quite paltry, they are considered torrential in a region that is known as the world's driest desert, because parts of it have not seen any precipitation for over 400 years!
The hardest hit is the northern city of Arica, which cumulatively receives about an inch of rain every 50 years. However this year, it has received a whopping .13 inches (3.4 millimeters) in just July! To put it in perspective, it is more than six times the city's national average since scientists began keeping a record, about 30 years ago.
Also hit hard, was the coastal city of Antofagasta, which got dumped on in early July, with a quarter inch or a full-year's worth of rain in just one day. While minuscule by most standards, this unexpected rain caused many of the city's flimsy rooftops to leak and even collapse, under the water pressure.
Things were no better in the mining city of Copiapo, where the normally bone-dry Copiapo riverbed turned into a torrent of rapid water, trapping people trying to drive across. While the Pacific port of Iquique did not get rained on, it was subjected to an unusually powerful dust storm that blew off some roofs, knocked down some massive trees and turned the sky scarlet red, at sunset.
Now that the massive rains seem to have evaporated, residents and tourists are looking forward to another unusual event - The blooming of about 200 varieties of flowers, an extremely rare event in the driest place on earth!
Whether this cold wild weather is a sign of times to come or just a freak weather pattern is not known - But one thing is certain - It has certainly brought some excitement to the residents of this region, something they will remember until they get pummeled by the next winter storm! To read more about why this area is so dry despite being right alongside the world's largest body of water, click on Atacama-desert-the-worlds-driest-desert.