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Chile Rain Makes Rare Shift to Atacama Desert

By By Eric Leister, Meteorologist
August 10, 2015, 11:22:47 PM EDT

The second in a pair of storms will brought welcome rain and mountain snow to much of central Chile this weekend.

These storms combined to produce the most significant rainfall that the region has seen in years. Rainfall in Santiago averaged between 75-100 mm (3-4 inches) which about how much rain has fallen over the past five August's combined. Normal August rainfall in Santiago is around 56 mm (2.20 inches).

While most of the rainfall was beneficial, the storms did produce damaging winds and flooding.

While lower elevations received significant rainfall, the Andes picked up significant snowfall, making for dangerous travel but also boosting the snow pack at the region's many ski resorts.


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Even the parched Atacama region of northern Chile received rainfall on Sunday, which came only months after rare rains in March caused catastrophic flooding around Antofagasta. While the heaviest rainfall remained to the south, 12-25 mm (0.50-1.00 inch) of rain fell in the southern Atacama, including Copiapo. The yearly average for the region is only 25 mm (1 inch).

A soaking rain overspread Antofagasta on Sunday causing flooding problems and also travel delays. Normal yearly rainfall is only 3.4 mm (0.135 inches) in the city.

One place that will again received significant precipitation from these storms was the Andes.

The mountains between La Serena and Puerto Montt saw a meter (3 feet) or more of fresh snow fall in the highest terrain.


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As the final round of rain pushes out of Chile, the stormy weather will expand to north-central Argentina and southern Uruguay through Monday.

"This feature will certainly lead to heavy rain around Buenos Aires Sunday into Monday," added Nicholls.

Other areas that could get flooding rainfall include Cordoba, Santa Fe and Rosario.

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Santiago will likely settle into a drier pattern following the upcoming rain. This is a trend that is all too familiar across central Chile.

“Santiago hasn’t had above-normal yearly rainfall since 2002," according to Accuweather Meteorologist Rob Miller. "Some years were near normal, but Santiago has continued to see rainfall well below average since 2006.”

Even with this most recent storm, yearly rainfall in Santiago is still less than 50 percent of normal.

The extended dry weather has prompted some regions of Chile to contemplate water rationing, according to La Tercera. Executives stated that the rationing would depend on how the weather continues over the next month or so, but that some sort of conservation is likely.

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