In the third look back at how the Majorca Daily Bulletin has reported news over the years, we focus on the weather and extreme events.
· It started on 8 October, prompting fears of a repetition of September the previous year when three lives had been lost. Fatalities there weren’t to be, but “Civil Defence On Full Alert” was the first mention of what was to occupy many column inches for three weeks. The floods of October 1990.
The north of the island around Alcúdia and Pollensa was most badly affected. Both towns, as well as Santa Margalida, were “virtually cut off from the rest of the island”, 136 litres of rain having fallen in the Alcúdia area. By 27 October the damage that the floods caused to roads alone (mostly in the north) was put at 1,000 million pesetas (almost six million pounds). There were to be five days of torrential rain. Crops were ruined, electricity was out for up to three or four days in some cases, hotels were inundated, some tourists were trapped in hotels that hadn’t been flooded out as they were unable to get to the airport because of the state of the roads.
· The ferocity of the 1990 “gota fria”, coming on top of that in 1989, led to badly needed improvements to drainage and other infrastructure to cope with future storms. But then there was to be 2001. On 15 November the front-page headline said simply: “Freezing”. Freak weather caused the island’s most important autumn fair, Inca’s Dijous Bo, to be cancelled, but this freeze was merely the culmination of what had started almost a week before. Hurricane winds and torrential rain had caused havoc - four people in Majorca lost their lives - and then came the snow and more wind. The Balearics asked “Madrid to declare the region a disaster zone”, the army was on stand-by, the whole island bore the brunt, though the rain was heaviest along the Tramuntana, the wind strongest in Pollensa and the areas worst affected by power cuts were the east and the interior.
· But then there was October 2018. Simply refer to Sant Llorenç and everyone understands the reference. A wider area than Sant Llorenç was affected. The thirteen people who died as a consequence of the “torrentada” were not from Sant Llorenç alone, but it is Sant Llorenç that will always be associated with the tragedy and it was Sant Llorenç where the floods were most devastating. A five-metre-high wall of water. They didn’t stand a chance.
We wept for all the dead, but we were touched most by the deaths of Joana Lliteras and Arthur Robinson, mother and son, and by the heroism of Daniel Thielk, who rescued Arthur’s sister, Ursula. Thirteen people dead; it was Majorca’s worst natural disaster in living memory.
· Climate change was recognised as a contributory factor, as it was in 2001 and then again in October 2007 when a storm ripped through Majorca, travelling in such a way that it almost followed the motorway northwards from Palma to the northern bays. As it also was this January. Storm Gloria battered the coasts, especially those in the east, during what was an exceptionally mild winter.
· There has also been the extreme heat. On 6 July 1994 the front page carried a photo of a digital thermometer in Malaga on the mainland. It had registered 46 degrees. While these thermometers can be misleading, in 1994 they weren’t. In Majorca the temperature exceeded 44 degrees. In fact, on 3 July that year, 44.2C in Muro was the highest temperature ever recorded in Majorca. But if 1994 goes down in the records for this reason, it was nothing like 2003. By the middle of May the heat was stifling, by June it was impossible. Mercifully, and although the daytime highs rarely went below 30 degrees until the very end of August when a storm brought the hot weather to a crashing halt, June was as hot as it got; on the 23rd, Sóller had recorded its highest temperature ever - bang on 40 degrees.
· Six years later, and the summer of 2009 was the second hottest ever after 2003. By 2019, another scorching summer, six of the ten hottest summers since current records began in 1965 had been in the decade 2011 to 2020.
· If nature has a way of reminding you it is there by oscillating between one extreme and another, it can do so in other ways. Like in 2010. “Majorca Flight Misery” said the front page of 16 April.
“Volcanic ash turns north Europe into no-fly zone.” The Icelandic volcano had erupted and “hundreds of Britons (were) left stranded” as all UK flights to and from the Balearics were grounded. “Going Nowhere” was another headline, and a “leading British volcanologist trapped in Majorca” said that it was a “most unusual situation”. And that it most certainly was.
· 9 October 1990. Civil Defence was on full alert and ... the pound jumped for joy, when, after years of British resistance, it entered the Exchange Rate Mechanism, while Majorca greeted a famous figure from the world of golf. Jack Nicklaus was in Valldemossa where he had been given the job of designing “Europe’s finest resort golf course”.
·14 November 2001. Majorca was on storm alert and ... eleven men believed to have had links with the international network of Osama bin Laden were arrested by Spanish police in Madrid, while an estate agency advert had a “unique harbour apartment” with four bedrooms in Puerto Portals for sale at 175 million pesetas (just over a million pounds). The price, note, was still quoted in pesetas, despite the euro having been introduced almost three years previously.