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Pluvius Now Cruel Enemy of Doughboy

by Sgt. George Hakim, Stars and Stripes staff

The Stars and Stripes (Mediterranean),
1 December 1944

   The weather, which has been as cruel and unrelenting an antagonist in Italy as the Germans themselves through much of the campaign has been more ornery than ever this fall. Record rain storms have swept the battle area, and winter's approach carries with it the promise of worse to come.

   Even in normal weather the rainfall on the present battlefront is from two to three times heavier than in any other part of Italy. But this fall hasn't been normal. North Italy in an average year has more rainfall, anyhow, than that wettest of wet cities, London. London's average is 24.5 inches. Against this, Florence's normal is 32.7 inches, and the rainfall at S. Benedetto, on the road from Florence to Forli, has for the past five years averaged 69.2 inches a year.

   According to the records, autumn is by far the wettest season in Italy where one-third of the year's rain falls from September through November. At Firenzuola, for example, near the Florence-Bologna Road, the average rainfall in 54.6 inches, of which 18.4 inches falls during those three months.

Wettest Yet ...

   This present autumn, which found the Allied armies in the wettest region of Italy at the wettest time of the year, has been unfortunately, abnormally wetter than usual.

   At Fiesole, just north of Florence, the average October rainfall of 3.07 inches, was swamped this year by a fall of 7.49 inches, while the November average of 2.68 inches is like California weather compared to the 4.56 inches that fell during the first 15 days of this month.

   Old Jupe Pluvius really showed off though in the battle area this year on the night of Oct. 31, right after the 5th and 8th Army troops had made some of their most significant advances in months. During the night there was a short cloudburst and rain fell continuously for ten hours.

   In that short period, 8.47 inches were recorded near Ponte A Tressa. If this fall is compared with the average local rainfall of 6.54 inches for October and November combined, it becomes mathematically clear that 150(sic) times more rain fell in the ten hours than would fall on the average during the two months. In other words, 79 days of normal autumn rain fell in this sector during ten very wet hours.

Rise Was Due ...

   With such abnormal weather conditions being recorded this year, it is small wonder that the River Arno rose throughout its length to within a few inches of the bailey bridges and almost to the top of the arches of the Ponte Vecchio, the only Florence bridge the enemy left undemolished.

   Rivers have been flooding their banks, road and bridges are being washed away constantly, walls are collapsing on the roads and entire fields have disappeared under water.

   Through it all slog the dough foot, the engineer, the signal men and the guy who hauls supplies; through it all battles are fought and hills are won and lost. Try as he will, old Jupe Pluvius can't do a thing about it. [Note: Jupiter Pluvius was the Roman God of Weather.]

   There hasn't been a war yet which was called off on account of weather - and this one in Italy is no exception.

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