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Driest desert in the world gets socked with snow and rain

Bryan Alaspa's picture

This continues to be the worst winter in a long time in the history of the country of Chile and now the Atacama desert has now been hit with snow and rain.

The Atacama desert is the driest desert on planet Earth. So far, the region where normally there is very little moisture at all, is having the wettest winter in decades. The rain and snow have caused a major disruption and caused huge problems for those who make the area their home. Even a fraction of an inch of rain in such an arid location could cause problems.

According to media reports, the month of July arrived and was followed by major storms that brought more than five times the annual rainfall for the area. The storms also dumped huge amounts of snow on some areas. At one point during the month of July mountainous areas of Chile were completely buried in snow, isolating entire communities.

At one point, in an area known as Antofogasta, July brought about four years’ worth of rain in one day. Of course, given the desert location of the community, that amounted to only about a quarter of an inch of rain. That was still enough to cause roofs to collapse. Most buildings in the area do not have the necessary reinforcements to withstand storms of that nature.

The same storm that brought rain to the area also brought as much as three feet of snow to areas in the mountains. The snowfall isolated residents and it necessitated that the Chilean army rush in to rescue some 400 people. Some of the people trapped were tourists from European countries who were trapped in snow drifts and buffeted by 50 mph winds.

The weather in Chile has been a distinct study in contradictions. High-pressure systems in the southern areas of the country are causing the storms and rain to move into areas that normally do not get them. However, in southern areas, that need the rain, the country is currently experiencing a drought. In some areas water reservoirs are severely drained and hydroelectric dams are unable to function to provide power.

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