Exceptionally intense snowfall and four strong earthquakes in Abruzzo, Central Italy – January 18, 2017

Extremely heavy snowfall is reported from parts of central Italy, including Abruzzo, where locally over 2.5 m of snowfall have acummulated over the past 72 hours. The region was also hit by four strong earthquakes yesterday: a magnitude 5.4 shock at 9:25, 5.7 at 10:14, 5.5 at 10:25 and 5.3 at 13:33 UTC (data: EMSC). The region has been affected by a number of strong earthquakes since August 2016, with several in the 6+ magnitude range.

Heavy snowfall and windy conditions are being reported in the epicentral region. Below is a webcam photo from l’Aquila, just south of the epicenters minutes after the third earthquake. A hotel is reported to have been hit by an avalanche, possibly earthquake-triggered. Over 20 people are reported missing.

The region has experienced intense sea-effect and stau-effect snowfall over the past 72 hours. Locally over 2.5 m of snowfall have been reported. Snowfall reaches as low as 100 m elevation, lower elevations are reporting heavy rainfall and minor local flooding.

The massive snowfall does not come as a surprise, and is the result of the persistent cutoff low over the Tyyrhenian sea. It is causing strong Bora northeasterly winds across the Adriatic sea, which in turn cause sea-effect and stau-effect snow over E Italy and the Apennines. See our outlook for more details and the update.

More snowfall is expected over the next 24 hours, locally up to 50 cm in Abruzzo and Marche regions of central Italy.

Here is a satellite view of the cutoff low over the central Mediterranean. Note the surface low just off the NW tip of Sicily, with exceptionally well-developed vortex structure.