Rosario woke up today licking its wounds after the worst hailstorm anyone can remember. After days of abnormally high temperatures, yesterday the weather turned overcast, then wind started to blow. Faraway thunder could be heard, and lightning flashed behind a veil of black clouds. My cat came up sniffing the air intently, her body tense and ready to escape, and then disappeared somewhere... At about 5:30 PM, before any rain had fallen, hail the size of billiard balls started pounding roofs and windows. That lasted 10 minutes. Rain joined in soon, winds up to 115 km/h propelling it (and the hail) almost horizontally at times. It stopped soon enough, and then, an hour or so later, it started again.
Right before the beginning of the storm, power went out in my house and around. We took out candles and matches, unplugged all the electrical appliances, and waited. The hail was a surprise, though. I initially heard some horrific pounding on nearby roofs, a sound of broken glass here and there, and then it come in full force; I had just enough time to lower all the metal blinders to protect the windows.
Someone got a battery-powered radio and we listened to the disaster report. One hundred people wounded, hospitals' ERs full, buildings' glass facades completely destroyed, pigeons falling dead from trees like leaves. Fixed telephone lines were down in many places, the cell phone network collapsed by message traffic. One fourth of the city's buses, tens of taxis, ambulances and power company vans, out of order because of broken glasses (and of course, queues in front of glass shops). Trees severely damaged or uprooted. Sewers blocked by branches and leaves, streets turned into streams of dirty water. Precarious roofs punctured by hail or simply blown off. Forty-thousand people without power. One person dead, hit by a car in a hurry to escape. And, as of the latest update, between 30 and 100% losses in wheat, corn and soybean crops in the region.
La Capital gave it a special cover and titled it Tarde de terror ("Afternoon of terror"). El Ciudadano, somewhat more imaginatively (if with a bit of misplaced humour) Ira de hielo ("Wrath of ice", a play on Era de Hielo, "Ice Age"). Rosario/12 named it Ciudad azotada ("Scourged city").
So today there are no classes in public and private schools, as many are without power, others are being used to held refugees, and some got all their glasses broken and/or were flooded. The mayor, the vice-governor and other authorities gathered a Crisis Committee. The mayor commented that his office's windows were broken and he'd never seen anything like this in 50 years (my father claims "this was nothing compared to the storm I saw when I was 20", but then, he says that about everything). Even Buenos Aires newspapers mentioned the storm, which is extremely unusual (given that anything beyond Greater Buenos Aires is considered less than their backyard by porteños).
The hail was up to 10 cm in diameter, and we can count ourselves fortunate that the storm laster only 10 minutes. I feel fortunate in particular because if my Japanese class had started two hours before, I would've been caught right in the middle of hell. My brother came home after it; it took him one hour (rather than the usual 40 minutes) in an over-full bus that had to take detours and drive very carefully.
I left home this morning for work (still without power) and I found the sidewalks covered with Platanus leaves. A couple of windows in my office had broken and some rain got into a monitor and a power plug, so we waited a bit before trying to turn anything on. One of my co-workers got her appartment's windows shattered; another one, who teaches in a university, says a roof there collapsed. Nobody got hurt, fortunately.
I wrote this in my office, I power has not returned at home (I just checked with my brother -- at least the phone works!). We often have these blackouts, but they usually last only a few hours. It's entirely possible that this may last a lot more. I'm now uploading at a cybercafé. (Sounds like a battlefield report, doesn't it?). I have some pictures taken at home yesterday, but they'll be locked up in my camera for a while.
PS: Power's back! Wow, 10 hours without electricity seems like eternity. I'm adding some pictures of mine and others.
PPS: And here's a video: