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At least two people are dead after extremely rare rain triggered significant flooding in one of the driest places in the world, northern Chile.
Rainfall is extremely hard to come by in northern Chile. In Antofagasta, virtually no rain falls this time of year and the port city averages just 1.7 mm (0.07 of an inch) annually.
However, Wednesday was anything but normal across northern Chile as a storm system tracked unusually far to the north and unleashed torrential rain.
A total of 24.4 mm (0.88 of an inch) poured down in the 24 hours, ending Thursday morning. Photos and videos from the region show that runoff from the rain inundated streets in Antofagasta, while the Copiapo River to the south was brought out of its banks.
The torrential rain is being blamed for two deaths, the BBC stated. One person was electrocuted on the street. The second died in a mudslide.
— paulina oliva (@pauly1986) March 25, 2015
Thousands are without electricity and drinking water.
Impacts from the downpours forced several companies to suspend operations at several of the major mines in northern Chile, according to Reuters. That put an estimated 1.6 million tons of capacity of copper on hold. Chile produces a third of the world's copper.
— Mario Hidalgo (@MariioTi) March 25, 2015
AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Anthony Sagliani warned of the unusual rain coming to northern Chile last weekend.
"The computer models had been showing a very strong upper-level storm system off the coast of Chile for several days. I looked at how anomalous it was and knew that an extremely rare event was going to happen," stated Sagliani.
"Northern Chile is a very cloudy place, but it never rains," according to Sagliani. "It is estimated that it has not rained in some places in the Atacama Desert in hundreds, even thousands of years."
Sagliani added that northern Chile is normally a stable place with a constant marine influence that limits showers and thunderstorms.
"No moisture makes it over the Andes [Mountain Range]," continued Sagliani.
The same storm responsible for Wednesday's deluge will bring additional showers and thunderstorms to the area from Antofagasta to La Serena on Thursday. While Sagliani does not expect the downpours to be as intense, any additional rain could worsen or trigger new flooding issues.
More typical dry weather has returned to the region at late-week, allowing cleanup from the flooding to begin.
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