Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening

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Yesterday, Thursday, was Valencia’s Community Day when it celebrates being liberated from somebody or other and becoming independent.  In Spain celebrations are big, spectacular and very, very loud.

The Spanish like their fireworks, or at least the sound of fireworks can be heard every couple of days or so in a celebration of something or other.  I’m not sure a concrete reason is needed.  The festivities kicked off at midnight with a full hour of fireworks,  stopping only for five minutes to allow a break between the two shows.  I can tell you, my eardrums were feeling the pain of this.

The next morning the party continued at 2pm when the next round of fireworks took place.  These were designed mostly for the noise they produce, and being set up in the city square surrounded by tall buildings on all sides, this really was a show of noise.

A few loud bangs in slow succession started it all off, probably signifying some crucial shots in the decisive battle for independence.  No-one I’ve asked seems to know much about the background story, just that it involves King James I of Valencia some 800 years ago.

The firecrackers and bangers started properly, strung up on what looked like washing lines that filled the main square.  The people gathered in the street and the surrounding side-streets, all vying for the best location.  The noise was incredible.  With each bang the body shook, at first a jolt and tremble of surprise, after, for the next five minutes, from the force of each explosion.  There was a sensation of clothing flapping as each blast boomed in the air with a cacophony of popping and cracking below.  The square, filled with such noise and the acrid smoke of gunpowder, seemed to me like something from a war scene.  But of course, instead of horror, people felt delight.

Later in the day there was meant to be a procession, but bad weather meant I ended up not going to see what the procession was about.

Instead I went out with a friend for a drink in some local bars.  At about 6pm, the weather was worsening, with strong winds and drizzle, but it wasn’t anything terrible.  About at about 9pm we noticed the rain coming down by the bucketful; and the thunder and lightning began, real crashes and flashes that dimmed and flickered the lights.  At 10 we got peckish and decided to go to a nearby restaurant to get some food while there was a slight dip in the severity of the storm.

While we were eating, we heard some commotion with the waiting staff, who then began running carrying sacks of rice to store on the higher surfaces, namely on top of the lavatories in the toilets.  A few moments later we realised what was happening when I felt my feet sloshing around in water, and looking down the water was already over a centimetre deep.  It was flowing inwards really quickly too, bringing all sorts of detritus from the street with it, like cockroaches, dead, on their backs with their legs stuck up in the air.  Within minutes it had at least doubled in depth, and we were putting our feet on the edges of other chairs to keep our feet out of the water.  The staff tried in vain to stem the flow, but nature had the upper hand.

By the time we left, the rain had slowed a little bit, but still in the road it was up to half a car tyre’s height in depth in places, and water was cascading down the vents and the steps into the metro station.  All the while the thunder and lightning continued.

The storm got worse again and seemed to arrive right above the district.  In my apartment the hammering rain was coming in around the window frames and the lightning was cutting out the electricity, but the strikes and flashes were frequent enough not to need a light on anyway.  The rain finally subsided about 1am, but the winds have carried on to this morning.

The news today reported a British woman and her daughter being killed in the storms, I’m not sure if it has made the attention of the British press.

Some pictures/video in this El País article.

Written by Benjamin

October 10th, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Festivities, Valencia

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses to 'Thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightening'

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  1. I’m glad you’re ok, it sounds like quite an experience.

    By the way, when you mention: “…cockroaches, dead, on their backs with their legs stuck up in the air…”, is this an analogy for the detritus or were there actual dead cockroaches in among the detritus? A small point, but I am curious about the roaches.

    xxx

    Mini

    10 Oct 08 at 2:07 pm

  2. My first proper comment! How cool. Keep them coming :)

    Yep, bona fide cockroaches. It was just so bizarre one minute munching away at some tasty Chinese, the next having water literally flowing around my feet, complete with the cockroaches.

    The things scuttle around here at times quite merrily, but thankfully not in the apartment, it’s too high up.

    benjamin

    13 Oct 08 at 7:27 pm

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