Andalucia Steve the dream

Thoughts on the capricious nature of Spanish weather


It is purely a personal observation but I'm aware of no other nation who talk more than the British about the weather than the Spanish people do. 
Before I came to live here, I, like many folk unfamiliar with the climate, thought it was all going to be "Scorchio" (If you don't get the reference, Google ' Meteorologikos mit Poula!').  How wrong I was. During my first August in Spain, the stifling heat was punctuated by a summer storm, the like of which I'd not seen before or since. Huge globules of water the size of a fist exploded on the pavement in a bombardment that lasted about ten minutes. It was as if the children of the Gods were amusing themselves by throwing water-filled balloons at us rudely invasive holiday-makers. The street outside my hotel became a temporary river. Then suddenly it was over. Twenty minutes later the water was gone, the last traces having evaporated into the thick summer air. It was as though nothing had happened.
Such is the capricious nature of Spanish weather. On another occasion I was driving back from Murcia city on the autovia, heading for home in Cehegin, when I was caught in a shower. It had been a bright day, but a big rain cloud appeared out of nowhere and really started chucking it down. My windscreen wipers were soon unable to cope, so I and all the rest of the motorists on the road slowed to a crawl and finally a stop. The sound of the rain beating on the roof was becoming scary. This particular section of the motorway was in a steep-sided cutting, the sides of which were plain earth. The rain was so powerful it started to wash the earth away, and a wave of mud started to slide downhill towards us. For a few terrifying moments, my car and those around me started to move sideways. It was like a disaster movie. Again though, a few moments later the rain stopped and we were soon on our way.
One word I hear over and over again when people describe the storms in Spain is 'biblical', as often the torrential rain is accompanied by the sort of thunder and lightning Cecil B DeMille would have given his right arm for. During one particularly windy storm, my aluminium door blew open sending papers and other items airborne in my living room. It wasn't until I tried to close the door that I realised it had been locked - I had to unlock it to get it to close! On another occasion, the amount of water running down the main street was so great it flooded the drains to the extent that I saw rats crawling out of the gratings to avoid drowning. I don't wish to put anybody off coming to Spain by recounting these anecdotes. As I say, the weather soon springs back to normal. I wish merely to point out that we have seasons here with a much greater variety of weather than a non-resident might suppose.
Talking of storms, an early word I learned in Spain was 'rambla' which loosely means creek. The first time I heard the word was walking with a friend through a dried-out river bed. He explained to me that every now and again, the Iberian Peninsula experiences a weather system called the 'gota fria' during which a large volume of water gets dumped in a very short period of time. Though the 'rambla' we were walking through had walls reaching several metres above our heads, when the 'gota fria' hit, this would fill with water. Therefore they shouldn't be built on as they perform an essential if rare function as storm drains. Some years later the word appeared again in the context of construction. Some people I knew had purchased houses in a small cluster (I think there were three separate properties in all) that had been built illegally/in-advisedly, at the foot of a hill, which acted as a run-off when it rained. The owners didn't know there houses had been built on a rambla until one fateful stormy day. Two of the three houses were flooded, and one of these started to move, its foundations gradually sliding down the hill and ended up needed underpinning at great expense. Make sure you don't buy a house built on a rambla!
Over the years I've also been surprised how chilly it can get in the winter here, and how much snow I've seen. This is entirely dependent on where you live. I've always lived inland at an altitude greater than 500m, so have experienced much colder weather than one would expect on the Southern coast of Spain. In my second winter here I had a burst water pipe which caught me by surprise. The maximum/minimum thermometer advised me that it was caused by a temperature drop that went down to -9C, which was as cold as anything I remember from the UK. The same week it snowed leaving eight-inches on the ground.
Fortunately, the village I live in now is generally milder than that. I've only seen snow once in my ten years living in Olvera and the temperature rarely dips below zero in winter here. I've noticed that villages like mine with few frosts tend to have an abundance of citrus fruits growing in the streets and peoples gardens, whereas in towns that do get hit by frosts one rarely sees oranges and lemons, which is a tip prospective buyers would do well to be aware of. 


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