Another exceptional high tide swamped Venice on Sunday, causing the tourist hotspot of St. Mark's Square to be closed due to the high water as the Italian city marked the worst week of flooding since records started officially being kept.
Venice's Tide Office said the peak tide of nearly 5 feet hit just after 1 p.m., but was just short of the 5 feet, 2 inches that was forecast due to a weather front that blocked winds from pushing water in from the Adriatic Sea. It was the third time since Tuesday night's 6 foot, 1 inch flood -- the worst in 53 years -- that water levels have topped nearly 5 feet in less than a week.
Water flooded St. Mark's Square, causing stores and museums to close as merchants tried to either elevate items away from water or attempt to use a combination of barriers, vacuums and mops to keep the brackish water out of their shops.
The mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, said on Saturday the city was preparing for another “tough day” but that the situation was expected to be less dramatic.
But even though officials closed down the historic square due to the rising waters, tourists kept arriving on Sunday with many donning plastic garbage bags and knee-high boots.
“We made the reservation this week before the floods and had paid already, so we came,” Luca D’Acun to, a 28-year-old from Naples visiting with his girlfriend, told the Associated Press. “Instead of a romantic trip, we’ll have an adventurous one.”
The doors of the famed St. Mark’s Basilica were securely shut to the public, while officials took precautions — stacking sandbags in canal-side windows — to prevent water from entering the crypt again.
Most museums were closed as a precaution, but the Correr Museum, which overlooks St. Mark’s Square and explores the art and history of Venice, remained open.
Officials said 280 civil protection volunteers from throughout the region were deployed to assist as needed. Young Venetian volunteers in rubber boots have also shown up at key sites, including the city’s Music Conservatory, to help save precious manuscripts from the invading saltwater.
Brugnaro, who has been appointed a special commissioner to deal with the emergency, estimated damages from the flooding in the city since Tuesday at around $1.1 billion, according to Reuters.
The flooding has raised renewed debates about the city’s Moses flood defense project, a corruption-riddled underwater barrier system that is still not operational after more than 16 years of construction and at least 5 billion euros of public funding.
Officials have also been going back and forth about the perils Venice faces from sinking into the mud and rising sea levels due to climate change.
Venice was not the only place in Italy dealing with severe weather over the weekend.
Authorities in Florence and Pisa were also closely monitoring the Arno river, whose water levels rose rapidly in the night due to heavy rain, according to Reuters.
In Italy’s mountainous Alto Adige, or South Tyrol region, a mid-autumn snowstorm triggered power outages and blocked roads in several Alpine valleys. The mayor of Val Martello, Georg Altstaetter, told state TV that an early-season avalanche had damaged two houses but caused no injuries.
A windstorm overnight in the Rome area toppled scores of trees, with two falling on cars, severely injuring a motorist, authorities said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.