Storm Hugo to threaten Spain, Portugal with flooding rain and damaging winds

By Courtney Spamer, AccuWeather meteorologist
March 24, 2018, 1:42:05 AM EDT

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Storm Hugo will barrel through the Iberian Peninsula, disrupting travel and creating hazards for residents into the first half of this weekend.

Named by the Spanish Meteorological Agency, Hugo is expected to spread rain, wind and mountain snow across the Iberian Peninsula into Saturday evening.

Hugo March 23

The heaviest rain will be found across northern Spain, outside of the higher elevations. This includes the regions of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and Pias Vasco. A band of heavier rain will also develop across Catalonia, including Barcelona.

"Rainfall in these areas can average 25-50 mm (1-2 inches) with localized amounts to 75 mm (3 inches)," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski said.

Rain, albeit less heavy, will dampen the rest of Spain early in the weekend.

While the above totals are not overly excessive for a 36-hour time frame, it is the recent rainfall across the Iberian Peninsula that makes the rain a concern.

"With a week still left in the month, Bilbao has already received its average monthly rainfall for March and 580 mm (nearly 23 inches) since the start of the year," Pydynowski said. "That rain is 250 percent above what typically falls."

2018 Europe spring forecast: Warmth to grace Spain
Spain weather radar
Extended AccuWeather forecast for Madrid

"With the already saturated ground, the rain and any downpours from Hugo will bring about flooding even more quickly," said AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys.

River and stream levels will rise and could possibly overflow their banks. Rain could gather on or totally cover roadways, making them impassible.

In the higher elevations of northern Spain, substantial snow is expected. More than 30 cm (12 inches) of snow can bury the Cantabria Mountains, leading to difficult travel.

The saturated ground will have other repercussions as Storm Hugo moves through the region.

Hugo will also unleash fierce winds that will spread across the areas into Saturday evening.

Spain wind March 23

"Most of the Iberian Peninsula looks to be affected by wind gusts of 65 km/h (40 mph). But some places, especially the coasts and higher ground from the northern Spain to the Balearic Sea, could have gusts that top out at 95 km/h (60 mph)," added Roys.

Wind gusts of this magnitude, in combination with the saturated soil, could easily topple trees and increase the chance for power outages.

These winds could also cause travel difficulties across Spain and Portugal. High-profile vehicles could be pushed by the stiff wind, and airplanes may have difficulty during takeoff or landing.

The strong winds pushing onshore from the Bay of Biscay into northern Spain could also lead to coastal flooding. Seas will be very rough across the Bay, with dangerous waves as high as 10 meters (33 feet) into Saturday.

Albeit not as high of wave height, rough seas will also build and endanger boaters in the Balearic and Alboran seas on Saturday. Seas should gradually lessen on Sunday.

Behind Hugo, drier and milder weather is expected for the Iberian Peninsula early next week. The sunshine and near-normal temperatures will help to dry out the region following the storm.

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