SEVERE WINDS CAUSED BY TLC – 7th November 2014

A Tropical-like Cyclone formed to the east of Tunisia and slowly moved eastwards towards the Maltese Islands with its eye passing exactly overhead late in the afternoon and early evening.

A strong low level jet-stream blew warm air masses from the Sahara desert towards the Mediterranean. These mixed with substantial moisture associated with a persistent area of low pressure that had produced showers and thunderstorms in the area for fifteen consecutive days.

The already unstable newly formed air mass was then forced to rise by an incoming mid-lattitude depression from the north-west. It interacted with the vorticity of the centre of the depression while over Pantelleria and the Mediterranean cyclone started to develop. Within 24 hours, the storm followed a path all the way from Pantelleria to Lampedusa e Linosa, Malta, the south-east and east of Sicily and finally towards the open Ionian Sea.

At its peak, the storm had a pressure of 978hPa at its centre, winds of up to 154km/hour and driving precipitation. The storm system also acted as a funnel that sucked sand from Libya towards the central Mediterranean where it manifested itself as a ‘sandstorm’ before being deposited with the rain.

The storm possessed numerous characteristics seen in tropical cyclones including the characteristic spiral appearance, an ‘eye’, rapid atmospheric pressure decreases in advance of landfall and intense sustained winds and heavy rain concentrated in the eye wall. The Mediterranean cyclone affected Malta from early on the 7th till early on the 8th.

The storm forced a suspension of operations at the airport, Gozo Channel and Malta Freeport, uprooted trees and caused a traffic nightmare. Several cars were damaged as trees were uprooted and walls were demolished in various locations.

Several electricity poles were also brought down and there was a blackout in Rabat, Mgarr, Bahrija and Mtahleb and parts of Mellieha, Bugibba and St Paul’s Bay.

Many cars stalled in flooded streets in low lying areas, particularly Msida as well as Birkirkara and even a stretch of the Birkirkara Bypass.Traffic jams were reported all over the country because of the flooding, uprooted trees and overturned signs or billboards. Three people also had to be rescued from that were filling up with water.