4th November 1966: 55 years ago the devastating flooding of Venice reaching 194 cm above the mean sea level

4 November 2021

Venice, 4th November 2021 – It is now 55 years, but the memory keeps untouched and the wound open. The 4th of November 1966 Venice was almost completely submersed in the raging Adriatic Sea water. A day recording an exceptional weather condition which would have caused enormous civil and hydrogeological damages over half of Italy, from mountain devastation to the Arno River flooding in Firenze. An exceptional high tide that Venice have never seen before: 194 centimetres above the mean sea. This level only was very nearly reached the 12th of November 2019 with 187 cm, another day that will remain fixed in Venetian people’s mind. That means that only for a gap of 7 centimetres, 1966 almost repeated.

First, when a strong and long-term scirocco started, the historic city centre already started to be flooded at 22 of the 3rd of November: according to the astronomical weather forecast, the following morning at 5 a.m., the tide would have gone out, but six hours later it would have come again. This did not happen. The lagoon did not succeed in drain the water, by dropping only a few centimetres. Therefore, Venice and the island of the lagoon remained flooded. Around midday the tide rose up further. A total blackout, the phones and the gas stopped working in the houses. The boots used by the Venetian people were not enough anymore. Nobody could pass and all the ground floors disappeared under the freezing water of the sea and of the lagoon.

At that point, six hours later, at 18, Venice had to face her key test: once again, the tide became higher and higher, instead of dropping down. It broke out every rule and tradition. In total darkness, in a deafening silence interrupted by the noise of the water, Venice and its islands have been devastated. The island of Sant’Erasmo, on the opposite of the Lido harbour, disappeared under high waves even reaching 4 metres. The same happened to the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello. On the contrary, at the Lido and Pellestrina, the damages have been even more serious with the devastation of the Murazzi. It was a huge dam made of Istrian stone built in 1716 in order to protect the lagoon banks from the sea erosion. Therefore, its destruction caused the flooding of the historic centre. The perfect balance maintained along over 1.600 years was interrupted in that moment, with desperate citizens by then unable to face something stronger than all of them together. After 24 hours of unstoppable water supremacy, around 21, definitively water started to drop down. After its endless rising, eventually, water leaved the city by showing a horribly dirty and devastated landscape.


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