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Freak Hailstorm hits Asmara, Eritrea

By: Christopher C. Burt, 8:05 PM GMT on March 17, 2014

Freak Hailstorm hits Asmara, Eritrea

Asmara, the capital and largest city in the African nation of Eritrea, was hit by a freak hail and rain storm on March 12th that reportedly caused hail to accumulate up to a meter (three feet) deep on portions of the city. Media reports claim this was the heaviest rainstorm to have ever been observed in the city.

Asmara is a large and relatively prosperous city of 649,000 inhabitants comfortably located in the highlands of interior Eritrea at an elevation of 2,325 m (7,628’).

Eritrea is located near the volatile horn of Africa and along the shore of the Red Sea with Asmara as its capital city.

Thanks to its altitude, the climate of Asmara is pleasant and relatively moist relative to lower elevations of the country and neighboring countries (which are home to some of the driest and hottest locations on earth). The average annual precipitation is 501 mm (19.73”) and temperatures range yearlong between 6°-26°C (43°-79°F). March is the beginning of their wet season and normally sees only about 12 mm (0.47”) of precipitation.

Climate table for Asmara, Eritrea. From Wikipedia.

Unfortunately, daily weather data for Asmara seems hard to come by despite the fact that it hosts an international airport. Climatologist Maximiliano Hererra informs me that the Eritrea Observatory (that used to compile climate data) no longer shares its records since Eritrean President Issias Afwerki took power in 1993, and the airport data is spotty as well. So we do not have any actual measurements to base the claim that “this was by far the biggest rainstorm in Asmara records” as some media outlets have stated. From Italian climate records maintained at Asmara from 1922-1939 and 1945-1952, the heaviest 24-hour rainfall reported was 2.60” (66 mm) in August (year not specified) and the heaviest March 24-hour rainfall was 1.00” (25.4 mm).

In any case, the storm apparently lasted just 90 minutes and rainfall was heavy enough to flood much of the downtown district and hail drifts (caused by water flushing the hail accumulations into low-lying areas) piled up to one meter (three feet) deep.

Here are some photos of the event from local media sources and video footage of the storm can be found here.

A couple of photos and stills from video footage of the hailstorm that hit Asmara, Eritrea last week. Sources all from local Asmara media sites.

Christopher C. Burt
Weather Historian

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