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On October 29th 2018, Venice, Italy faced record high winds and rising sea levels, sending the city and surrounding areas into intense flooding, devastating much of the region. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte estimated around one billion dollars in damage as a result, and as of November 5th, the death toll has increased to 29 nationwide. Many of the casualties were reported to be a result of the strong, 118-mph winds across the nation which caused trees to topple. An estimated three-quarters of the city of Venice was or still is underwater, including the popular Centro Storico of Venice.
This is not something unknown to Venice and the surrounding area. The strong pressures and sirocco winds (strong northbound winds) in the Adriatic Sea combined with the seasonal high tide, brought in stronger winds, which pushed water into the city. The acqua alta, or high water in English, occurs seasonally in the region between October and January. Usually, the acqua alta happens a few times a year and only lasts a few hours or a day. However, changes in the climate have led to larger floods than the city is used to. Due to the threat of worsening floods, the city of Venice is working on the “Moses System,” a system of underwater flood barriers, however, due to the high costs, the project remains unfinished. Experts believe that if the system had been in place, the flooding would not have been so devastating to the city of Venice.
How this affects tourism
Tourism to the region, at this moment, is officially not encouraged. Tourists who were in Venice when the floods hit were seen wading through the five-foot-high waters, or on raised walkways around St. Mark’s Square, despite the iconic cathedral being closed due to flood and water damage. However, most day-to-day operations are up and running again like normal, and local residents say the worst of the flooding is over. In Venice, many tourist attractions, such as Doge’s Palace and many museums, are open and have raised walkways in front for visitors to enter. The water bus system in the city was closed but has been reopened, making it easier to get around. St Mark’s Cathedral was flooded for the second time in 100 years but is now back open to the public. However, the cathedral has faced significant damage, with many historians and locals saying the flooding aged the cathedral 20 years. The city is also on alert for possible continuing storms including heavy rains and strong winds. If you’re planning to visit Venice, remember to take this into account.
While officially the city and Mayor Luigi Brugnaro have encouraged against all non-essential travel, others in town are saying that it’s not completely necessary to cancel your vacation plans just yet, but it’s important to stay up to date to weather reports, alerts and local news in order to stay safe. If you’re currently in Venice, be sure to wear rain boots and raincoats when stepping outside, in order to navigate through the flooded streets.
How to Help
If you’re in the city, or even if you’re far away, but looking for a way to help Venice and the country recover, there are ways to help. Cleanup efforts in the city are officially underway, and there is much to be done. Shopkeepers and restaurant owners are working hard to mop floors, clean up the outdoor seating areas, and rearrange tables and displays to make the spot clean again. St. Mark’s has faced nearly unprecedented damage, and across the country, homes, cars, buildings, and ports have been wrecked due to flood waters and toppled trees. Medical assistance is likely also needed across the country as rescue efforts finish up in the coming days. At this moment, it’s hard to assess how exactly to help out, but if you continue to check in on local news sources, you’ll likely find a way.