Rain in the Norte Chico

During the last couple of days, we have experienced our first heavy rains in over five years. To those who live in Southern Chile, the reaction to that statement may be, “So What?”

Trouble is that towns here are usually unprepared. For example, La Serena doesn’t have storm drains, so the rainwater is either illegally fed into the sewerage system, which overloads and floods into homes at lower levels, or else runs downwards to the sea, where the beachside Avenida del Mar invariably fills with water.

The gradual depopulation of the town centre has led to the abandonment of many of the old adobe buildings. Adobe, unless protected, absorbs rainfall, softens and collapses, and we have started to see this. Coquimbo and Valparaiso have the same problem.

Power cuts are also the norm, we have already had two in three days.

The curious behaviour of the locals is worth mentioning. They seem to dread rainwater, and many buses and colectivos won’t run if its raining, so some shops and offices remain closed as personnel can’t or won’t get into to work.

The snow line in the RM was at about 800m this morning (or about 2400ft) as observed from my house and as seen on the news. That is perhaps the lowest snow line since a day in 2017 when it was about 400m.

The rain in the RM this winter looks to be a bit higher than average. It has been enough to fill up reservoirs to a decent level, and reduce the possibility of water rationing this summer. May delay this by a year perhaps.

Another one of the scientists predictions about climate change seems to be coming true already: that there will be more rain at times of the year that are already wet, and less at times that are already dry.

In the RM it is becoming common place to get more rain in the two months of June and July than the rest of the year put together.

June and July have always been by far the rainiest months.

From the second floor of my house, I can see some low mountains to the southwest. Often when it rains, they get rain, not snow. Today, they have a very low snow level.

Now it is windy and started to hail. The dogs are not impressed.

At least we are no longer living in the run down rental we lived in until 2018. The kitchen roof started to leak and the owner would not repair it. I paid a guy 30,000 pesos to climb up there and put down plastic sheeting!

This is the rainiest year on the coast since was it 2007 or 2008 after I moved here from Santiago in 2006. I remember one of those years where it rained continuous for nearly three days and the humidity seeped in despite everything being locked down tight. You could just feel and smell the humidity in the apartment not to mention the clogged salt grinder and other food and condiment containers which it penetrated.

Now that the rain has stopped, we are starting to see quite a few damaged houses. Because La Serena Centro is a Zona Típica, the official way to go about facade repairs is to:

Submit a repair project to the Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales, drafted professionally by an Architect. Approval takes many months.

Reuse as much of the original material as possible, employing builders capable of working with Adobe.

Faced with those costly and time-consuming demands, most prefer to do a quick patch job with tabiquería and cement board, or cement block infill - if they bother at all. Some old houses are just abandoned or become inhabited by Okupas.
The underlying reason these properties are not maintained is that they are not worth maintaining…