Updated 26 February: At long last, Tenerife’s bomberos have been able to say tonight that after five days, 100 hours of work, 20 fires in six municipios, and teams of over 500 of professional and volunteer firemen, military emergency units, Proteccion Civil and police … at long last there is calm. The fires are out. For those currently concerned about the Coronavirus outbreak and the professionalism and effectiveness, not to mention tireless heroism, of the services in Tenerife, here is a perfect and present example.
Updated 8.30pm: The Canarian Government has announced that state schools throughout Tenerife will remain closed tomorrow because of the calima, and reopen on Wednesday. Of course tomorrow is a public holiday in some municipios anyway (see HERE) so their schools would be closed anyway, but the Government now confirms that no schools will return until Wednesday.
Updated 8pm: The Cabildo has said that two fires were reported as reactivated this evening in the Los Realejos municipio. The first in the mirador de La Grimona area has now been brought back under control while the other in the La Guancha area was a false alarm. The TF5 was temporarily closed again for emergency teams but the road has now been reopened.
Updated 24 Feb 2pm: The Tenerife Cabildo has just announced that due to the weather and its expected evolution all recreation and camping areas will remain closed to the public until at least Wednesday. Even if conditions improve for their use, the Cabildo still needs to check them all and carry out any repair or restoration works needed after the storm. Further announcements will be made to confirm when they reopen.
Updated 24 February: At last, with the UK papers full of Mars-like images of a completely Tangoed Tenerife, the winds have started to die down. Now they’re just high winds rather than record-breaking hurricane-level sandstorm gales. It feels like it could be starting to pass. Unfortunately, Aemet’s monitoring shows a third wave of calima still to arrive tonight. It’s perhaps a bit too early to unbatten any hatches.
In better news, the vast majority of those evacuated have been able to return home as all fires are now under control, with some actually extinguished. Tenerife President Martín says that Teide and Teno access roads have just reopened. Fred Olsen has confirmed that all ferry routes are now operating normally, while Aena says that all airports are operating but with reduced capacity, and so all passengers must check with their airlines for information about their specific flights before leaving for the airports which are still struggling for room with passengers waiting to depart.
The emergency services control room reports that in this storm so far they have coordinated 968 incidents caused by winds, calima and costeros. Mercifully we are still without any reports of serious injuries, with no real human damage in what the Canarian Government is describing as the worst calima “in four decades”. Let’s hope that we continue with only material damage in the third wave tonight, but the general message is that the absolute worst might be over but this sandstorm still has some teeth left to bite us with.
Updated 11pm: Aena says that as of now all airports in the Canaries are operative except TFS. To date, 822 flights have been affected by the weather. All travellers are advised to consult with the airline direct as to the state of their planned fight because disruption is ongoing.
Updated 10pm: The Tenerife Cabildo says that criticism of the Santa Cruz carnival going ahead is understandable, and that while it advised against attending due to weather conditions, the final decision was the responsibility of Santa Cruz Ayutmamiento. The Cabildo reiterates its advice, based on Aemet forecasts and reports from the Canarian Government’s Health Department, that the public should not leave home unless absolutely essential.
Tenerife President Pedro Martín has said tonight that the TF5 is now totally open to traffic, with no restrictions. Some 20 fires have broken out in urban areas throughout the day in six municipalities, mainly in the north. All fires are currently either under control or stabilized. Two fires, one in the area of Las Arenas in Puerto de La Cruz, and another in La Quinta in Santa Úrsula, reactivated and fire crews are currently still working in these areas. They are expected to be brought under control in coming hours when winds are expected to reduce to between 70 and 80km/h.
Some 400 residents who were evacuated from Santa Úrsula to the La Victoria Sports Centre and other council properties have been able to return home, and some tourists who were evacuated from the hotel La Quinta Park have been able to return to their own acccomodation.
Alternatives are being sought for the thousands of tourists who have had flights affected today and who remain stuck in Tenerife. The Cabildo says that occupancy is currently high because of the season and carnival, so there aren’t ready spaces in tourist accommodation. Some, indeed, are trapped in TFS, and supplies for personal hygiene and blankets, etc., have been sent to the airport for them.
All recreation areas in the mountains remain closed, under order of the Cabildo’s Environment Department. Also closed is access to the Teide National Park where the winds are strongest. We will be informed when they are reopened.
Updated 8.30pm: Over the last several hours, the wind has died down a bit and is expected to reduce strength as the evening progresses. The fires that broke out throughout the day, particularly in the north, are now controlled or at least stabilized. Some houses have been affected, some residents evacuated including a residential care home for the elderly which was affected by smoke, but in the main damage has been minimal considering the wild conditions. Many have lost electricity at least for part of the day, and Endesa is still engaged in restoring supplies where they remain off: the company says that it expects everyone’s electricity to be back on by morning at the latest. Most importantly in all this, there have been no human casualties.
Around 500 individuals have been engaged in dealing with the problems caused by the conditions, including forestry brigades, the army emergency unit, both Consorcio and volunteer bomberos, as well as all the police forces and charity units. Meanwhile, Canarian air space has been closed throughout the day and travellers are still advised to check all flights with airlines, but the President of the Canaries, Ángel Víctor Torres, has said in the last five minutes that Tenerife airports remain closed but Gran Canaria has just reopened, and the airports in the other islands are partially operational.
Ferries are operating normally, the Ports Authority says, On the roads, the TF5 is partially reopened after being closed to traffic to prioritize firefighters; it was reopened fully some hours ago but one lane has since been closed as one fire has reactivated. The authorities are firm in their request, however, for the public to stay indoors and only venture out if it is absolutely essential. State schools have been closed tomorrow because of the weather, not because of holidays, though because of carnival, tomorrow is a public holiday in Santa Cruz only, and Tuesday is a public holiday in several municipalities who choose Martes de Carnaval as one of their two local holidays. All recreational areas, as well as access to the National Park, are also closed, as has been Siam Mall – usually priding itself on opening 365 days of the year.
The Tenerife President is about to give his press conference and I’ll update as soon as he has spoken.
Updated 5.45pm: President of Tenerife Pedro Martín has said that an update will be given to media at 8.30pm about the developing situation of the calima and winds, as well as the various fires that have broken out today in Tenerife. The Cabildo has asked the public to stay home, and avoid going anywhere unless they absoutely have to.
Updated 4.30pm: This short video will hopefully give an idea of the type of conditions where fires have broken out. This situation is still developing and the calima is still getting worse.
Updated 23 Feb 4pm: The Canarian Government’s Education Department has announced in the last half hour that given the forecast, all school is suspended tomorrow, Monday 24 February. Please note that this concerns public system schools. Some private schools will have classes.
Updated 23 Feb 2.30pm: In the last half hour, Aena has announced that due to worsening conditions, no traffic is being allowed to approach any Canarian airports. Aircraft headed for these islands are being diverted to alternative airports. The public is instructed to check with their airlines as to the state of their flights and not to go to the airport before doing so.
Updated 23 February: Malls closed, public and municipal events cancelled all over Tenerife, electricity on and off like the proverbial, it is still blowing an absolute hoolie … and I mean hurricane level gusts. One recorded overnight at Izaña near the observatory registered 163km/h, and Adeje now has a new record of a gust of 134km/h. When they say it’s dangerous, they mean it, and those who seem to take joy in reporting “nothing here, it’s lovely” are engaged in an inexplicable wind-up which serves only to annoy in the context of 112 Control Room reports that it has had to deal with over 550 incidents in Tenerife alone just last night and this morning.
Ferries stopped sailing at one point but on resumption, a Fred Olsen catamaran collided with the Armas ferry as it tried to dock in Los Cristianos. This morning, however, Fred Olsen Ferries has confirmed that routes are operating normally apart from the LZ-FTE route and the internal connection in La Gomera between San Sebastian and Valle Gran Rey.
Flights are gradually recovering their schedules, though many are suffering delays still. TFN and TFS are open, however, and incoming flights are, if anything, being assisted by the winds. Other airports in Gran Canaria, La Palma and El Hierro are being closed and reopened as conditions allow. The official advice is for all passengers to check with their airlines for confirmed information about their specific travel plans.
Meanwhile, fires have been breaking out throughout Tenerife, some recorded in La Orotava, Los Reajelos, Güímar, Santa Ursula, La Guancha and Puerto de la Cruz. Some areas have been evacuated, and the public is asked to take extreme precautions and to abide by all official advice and instructions. These fires are often caused by sparks from cables hanging after being blown around or dislodged, the wind hampering all efforts to contain them, let alone get them under control. Thankfully, however, nothing is as bad in Tenerife as the poor souls in Gran Canaria who are battling another awful fire.
For Los Chicharreros, however, Carnaval holds a very special place in their hearts, the product of it being banned under General Franco, so it takes a storm of this magnitude to cancel it in extremis. And after caution ruled last night, Carnaval has reasserted itself today, and Santa Cruz Ayuntamiento has announced it continues, weather or no!
Updated 22 February: As promised, the wind came. And the calima. It is horrible, and it is having a considerable disruptive effect on travel. In particular, both Tenerife airports were temporarily closed to national and international arrivals and some 230 flights were affected. Aena has confirmed in the last hour, however, that operations are resuming progressively at both TFN and TFS. As of 10pm they are allowing inter-island flights and a limited number of national/international ones. The Spanish Government and Air Navigation Authority have both advised travellers affected by the exceptional situation to confirm all travel arrangements with the airline concerned. Gran Canaria airport has been confirmed as reopened.
Original post 21 February: Aemet has issued a warning for very strong winds from tomorrow afternoon, intensifying on Sunday, in all parts of all the Canaries, as part of a weather depression. The wind will be from the east and so the gales will bring calima with them, and very wild seas. Gusts are expected up to 120 km/h in some parts, especially at altitude and in the medianías (600-1500m). There are Met Office orange alerts for extremely strong wind and atmospheric dust; around the coasts this translates to Gale Force 7 so Emergency Services say that they are in no mood for pranks or foolhardiness, and that they will charge for any rescues required by those who have not taken the warnings on board. Conditions are expected to start to improve on Monday, increasing on Tuesday. Take care, everyone.