Three Years of Rain Falls in 12 Hours as Deadly Storm Causes Flooding, Mudslides in Chile

A man clings to a security line to cross a street flooded by the overflowing of the Copiapo River due to heavy rainfall that affected some areas in the city, in Copiapo, Chile on March 26, 2015. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

(SOURCE)   At least six people are dead in Chile after a potent weekend storm brought unusual rains to Chile’s Atacama desert region, while the coast was battered by destructive waves and strong winds.

Antofagasta, Chile, saw 0.55 inches (14 mm) of rain in just 12 hours Saturday into Sunday. That may not sound like much, but it’s actually more than three years worth of rain for this town where the average annual rainfall is just 0.14 inches (3.8 mm).

Satellite image of the storm on Friday prior to when it moved inland during the weekend. (NASA)

The unusual rains caused deadly flooding and mudslides just to the north of Antofagasta in the town of Tocopilla. According to Chile’s National Office of Emergency of the Interior Ministry, at least three people are dead and one more is missing due to the flooding.

This is the second time in 2015 that this part of Chile has seen unusual rain amounts. In March, Antofagasta saw an even heavier bout of rainfall with 0.96 inches (24.4 mm) falling during the 24 hour period ending at 8 a.m. EDT March 26. That bout of rainfall also resulted in deadly flooding and was named our strangest weather event of 2015, so far.

Mud inside a home in Tocopilla, Chile. (BeaTocopilla/Twitter)

“The Atacama Desert is an extremely arid region and has been for millions of years. As a result, the terrain is hard and rocky because rainfall isn’t frequent or abundant enough for either weathering rocks into sand or supporting the kind of ecosystem that would help turn rocks and minerals into soil. Without soil and plant cover to help absorb rainfall, it just runs off instantly as torrents of water,” senior meteorologist Nick Wiltgen said.

Along the Chile coast, images from social media showed that waves generated by the storm caused coastal destruction near Valaparaiso. According to The Associated Press, one man drowned at sea near Valparaiso.

Two more deaths were blamed on the storm, including one person that was killed by a falling tree, and another that was killed when their roof collapsed, reports The Associated Press.