Articles | Volume 12, issue 2
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 365–378, 2012

Special issue: 12th Plinius Conference on Mediterranean Storms

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 365–378, 2012

Research article 17 Feb 2012

Research article | 17 Feb 2012

Damaging events along roads during bad weather periods: a case study in Calabria (Italy)

O. Petrucci and A. A. Pasqua O. Petrucci and A. A. Pasqua
  • CNR-IRPI, U.O.S. of Cosenza – Via Cavour 4/6, Rende (Cosenza), Italy

Abstract. The study focuses on circumstances that affect people during periods of bad weather conditions characterised by winds, rainfall, landslides, flooding, and storm surges. A methodological approach and its application to a study area in southern Italy are presented here. A 10-yr database was generated by mining data from a newspaper. Damaging agents were sorted into five types: flood, urban flooding, landslide, wind, and storm surge. Damage to people occurred in 126 cases, causing 13 victims, 129 injured and about 782 people involved but not injured.

For cases of floods, urban flooding and landslides, the analysis does not highlight straightforward relationships between rainfall and damage to people, even if the events showed different features according to the months of occurrence. The events occurring between May and October were characterised by concentrated and intense rainfall, and between May and July, the highest values of hourly (103 mm on the average) and monthly rainfall (114 mm on the average) were recorded. Urban flooding and flash floods were the most common damaging agents: injured, involved people and more rarely, cases with victims were reported.

Between November and April, the highest number of events was recorded. Rainfall presented longer durations and hourly and sub-hourly rainfall were lower than those recorded between May and October. Landslides were the most frequent damaging agents but the highest number of cases with victims, which occurred between November and January, were mainly related to floods and urban flooding.

Motorists represent the totality of the victims; 84% of the people were injured and the whole of people involved. All victims were men, and the average age was 43 yr. The primary cause of death was drowning caused by floods, and the second was trauma suffered in car accidents caused by urban flooding. The high number of motorists rescued in submerged cars reveals an underestimation of danger in the case of floods, often increased by the sense of security related to the familiarity of the road. In contrast, in the cases of people involved in landslides, when there was enough time to realise the potential risk, people behaved appropriately to avoid negative consequences. Of the victims, 50% were killed along fast-flowing roads; this may be related to the high speed limit in force on these roads, as a car's speed reduces the reaction time of a driver's response to an unexpected situation, whatever the damaging agent is. These results can be used in local information/education campaigns to both increase risk awareness and promote self-protective behaviours.

Moreover, the mapping of damaging effects pointed out the regional sectors in which the high frequency of the events suggests further planning of in-depth examinations, which can individuate the critical points and local regulator interventions that might change damage incidences in the future.