Historian brings to light Tenerife’s great storm of 1826 which left 500-1000 dead

Historian brings to light Tenerife’s great storm of 1826 which left 500-1000 dead

Sometimes, historians have their uses …

Thanks to the research of lecturer and member of the Canarian Meteorological Association, José Luis Hernández, we now know about a flood in Tenerife that would otherwise have been forgotten, and which would appall us today!

In a documentary presented yesterday, José Luis related how the deluge happened on the 7th and 8th of November in 1826, the result of a storm which caused between 500 and 1000 deaths and destroyed some 400 dwellings. The majority of those affected were in the La Orotava area, but the wider north Tenerife region suffered too, with the torrential downpour, lasting for 11 consecutive hours, being so strong that 12 new barrancos were created.

The La Orotava valley itself was destroyed, with cultivated land devastated, and bridges and roads washed away as though they’d never existed. The lower part of the valley was filled with sand, mud, rocks, the pulped remains of whatever infrastructure and dwellings had been carried along by the downpour, and even the bodies of people and animals which had been swept down with the waters.

Even the bay was filled up with rubble so that boats were wrecked, and the area was so silted up that the sea was pushed 208 metres further out than it had been previously.

The edil de Cultura de la Villa, Francisco Linares (CC), stressed the importance of the research which has recorded an historic event “unknown by the vast majority of the public”, but which created a grave humanitarian, social and economic crisis.

José Luis himself, who has researched the event for five years, said that one cannot know precisely what the weather system was that caused the catastrophe 185 years ago, but it was probably a tropical cyclone whose effects were worsened by the considerable deforestation that took place in Tenerife’s mountains in the 19th century.

He continued that the effect could have been repeated with tropical storm Delta in 2005, but on that occasion we had the great good fortune that the two fronts of rain and wind were separated. God forbid that it should be repeated without such good luck, said José Luis, because the effects now are incalculable, particularly with the way in which barrancos have been routinely built in.

The documentary was shown yesterday in the La Orotava Consistorio and will be shown again shortly in La Guancha, where the storm left more than 52 dead.

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