A rare, powerful cyclone struck the western Ionian Islands of Greece and other parts of the country on Friday, bringing heavy rain, high winds and flooding as it entered the coast.
Such storms – which some meteorologists refer to as Medicanes or Mediterranean hurricanes – were virtually unknown before the 1990s, but have become more frequent in recent years due to rising sea temperatures.
Greece gave its weather warning at its highest level with the landing of the hurricane-force storm known locally as Ianos and elsewhere in the region as Cassilda. Local authorities advised residents of the islands and tourists trapped there because of the cyclone to stay indoors as the storm brought winds of at least 75 miles per hour.
On Zakynthos, a local described blackouts in large parts of the island as dawn broke on Friday morning.
On Kefalonia, locals reported fallen trees and storm-thrown debris, as well as damage to some houses and flooding on the coast. The video posted by the island showed strong waves lapping past a harbor wall and dozens of boats overturned by the storm.
The Hellenic National Meteorological Service warned of heavy rains and storm winds across the area, with the worst storm expected to be felt on Friday before noon.
Greek deputy civil protection minister Nikos Hardalias told state television that the islands of Ithaca, Kefalonia and Zakynthos had been hit by the worst weather overnight and that power outages had occurred on all three islands.
“It was a difficult night for the Ionian Islands as the intense weather phenomena are in full swing,” he said.
Since they are not from the tropics, Mediterranean-shaped cyclones like Ianos are not called tropical storms or hurricanes, but their wind strength makes them comparable.
Some experts say the rise in such storms could be linked to climate change, as the warmer water, as the world warms and sea temperatures rise, provides more energy to power the cyclones.
No deaths or serious injuries were reported as a result of the storm as of Friday morning, but the full extent of the damage is still being assessed.