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Every year in August, Uruguayans brace for “La Tormenta de Santa Rosa”—a weird weather phenomenon caused by the first warm winds of the southern spring clashing with cold fronts from over the Antarctic Sea.

I had never lived in a country before where locals would predict a storm coming on an annual basis, but in this part of the world, everyone expects a big storm five days before or up till five days after August 30.

August 30 marks the festival of Santa Rosa that occurs in Peru. The legend of Santa Rosa tells that in 1615 Dutch pirates were on their way to Lima to ransack the city. A young woman called Isabel Flores de Oliva, nicknamed Rosa (or the Rose) because of her extraordinary beauty, offered her life in return for Lima’s sparing. One story says that God conjured up a storm and sent the Dutch ships to the deep. Others tell that the Dutch fleet turned away inexplicably leaving Lima unscathed. Either way, all agreed that Isabel –who was later canonised Santa Rosa– had saved Lima.

Climate data shows that the Storm of Santa Rosa is one of the first to form at the end of Southern winter, between August 20 and September 20.

Uruguayans (and people in neighbouring Argentina) will tell you that the Santa Rosa storm is one of the most violent of the year. However even if we get just a bit of rain, everyone is very content to claim it on the Saint’s behalf.

So can the storm really be predicted?

The Argentinian meteorological service keeps a special archive on the Santa Rosa phenomenon and has records since 1906 which focus on any climate instability occurring between August 25 and September 4. For the 106 years up until 2012, the storm had occurred 57 times (54%).

You can make up your own mind.

The clip above collects photos that appeared in someone’s Facebook feed during and after the Santa Rosa which occurred on September 19 2012 in Uruguay. (Tip, turn off the audio)

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Parque Rodó in Montevideo on August 23 2005 after a cyclone with winds of 150 km per hour. A cyclone hits Uruguay not more than once every forty years. I am not sure if this was categorised as the Santa Rosa but the date fits! Courtesy of ztep on Flickr

Photos courtesy of Jimmy Baikovicius and zteps

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