Flood damage in Campanillas, Malaga, Spain. Credit: Junta de Andalucía
Flood damage in Campanillas, Malaga, Spain. Credit: Junta de Andalucía

by Richard Davies, floodlist

The storm Gloria wrought havoc across parts of Spain and France during late January 2020.


The storm affected wide areas of Spain from 20 January, in particular along the southern and eastern coasts, bringing strong winds, high waves, storm surge and torrential rain. AEMET reported wind gusts of 115 km/h in Oliva, Valencia, on 20 January and 106 km/h in Barcelona the next day. Huge waves, reportedly up to 14.8 metres, smashed into coastal areas of Valencia, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands.

Several areas recorded more than 180mm of rainfall in 24 hours during the storm, including Barx in Valencia Province (190.4mm on 20 January), Horta de Sant Joan in Tarragona Province (227.4mm on 21 January), Sant Hilari in Girona (183.2 mm on 22 January) and Coín in Málaga (183.0 mm on 23 January). Severe flooding was reported in areas around Girona after the Ter river broke its banks on 23 January. The overflowing Guadalhorce and Campanillas rivers caused flash flooding also caused damage in the province of Málaga on 24 January. The Guadalhorce river reached 4.70 metres on 25 January, with floods leaving residents trapped in their homes in Cártama.

Storm surge flooded 3 km inland along Spain’s eastern coast 20 to 22 January 2020
Storm surge flooded 3 km inland along Spain’s eastern coast 20 to 22 January 2020. Credit: Copernicus EMS

Images from CEMS - Mapping show that the storm surge on the east coast of Spain swept 3 km inland in the Ebro river delta south of Barcelona. The mayor of Deltebre, Lluís Soler, estimated around 30 km2 of rice fields have been flooded by seawater and said “the delta is in emergency!” By 23 January, Spanish media reported 4 storm-related deaths in Catalonia, 5 in Valencia, 2 in Andalusia, 1 in Castile and León and 1 in the northern region of Asturias. Four people were reported as still missing in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands.


Storm Gloria also brought heavy rain to parts of south-western France from 20 January. On 23 January, MeteoFrance said: “The equivalent of 4 to 5 months of rain fell in 72 hours in Roussillon. These intense rains caused exceptional floods in the departments of Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales.” According to MeteoFrance figures, in a period from 20 January to 23 January, 418 mm of rain fell in Arles-sur-Tech, 351 mm in Amélie-les-Bains and 365 mm in Serralongue.

Around 1,500 people were evacuated in several towns near Perpignan in Pyrénées-Orientales after levels of the Agly river rose quickly. The Agly at Rivesaltes reached 7.41 metres in the early hours of 23 January, 2020, equaling its second highest level on record, set in 2014. The highest level of 7.66 metres was set in 2013. Around 250 people were also evacuated in Aude due to flooding from the Aude river. In Coursan, the Aude river reached 8.25 metres on 23 January, equalling the highest level set in 2010.