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Hydrometeorological Risk Phenomena

In The Alba Iulia Turda Depression. Romania

1. Institute of Geography, Bucharest, Romania
2. "I.L. Caragiale" National College, Bucharest, Romania

In order to assess the vulnerability of communities to extreme hydrometeorological phenomena,
observations on their onset and development should aim at quantifying intensity and frequency, also
establishing and foreseeing possible damage. The present study focuses on a few atmospheric
phenomena registered in the Alba Iulia Turda Depression over the 2002-2006 interval, given that the
damage incurred involved aspects of risk.
Hazardous atmospheric phenomena, heavy rainfall in the main, led to other natural risks affecting both
the environment and the socio-economic activity. Apart from atmospheric causes, the risk for other
natural events are related to local particularities, e.g. lithological structure (sandy-clay substrate),
landform (slopes and highly fragmented relief) and soils (little forestland and grassland due to human
pressure dominantly arable land and numerous human settlements). Houses and annexes, as well
as socio-economic constructions were damaged, lots of animals and poultry perished, national,
county, communal and forester's roads, bridges and foot-bridges were washed away or disaffected,
crops were flooded, trees were brought to the ground, electrical and telephone networks were
destroyed. Heavily affected were the road infrastructure, the hydroelectrical constructions the socioeconomic units, the electrical and telephone networks and agriculture generally.
The number of catastrophic situations, unusually high in 2005, represented 44% of all the
interventions made over the past ten years to limit and remove flood effects. Negative
hydrometeorological phenomena were found to occur mainly in summer, especially in June and July
when torrential rains and floods are common. Significant damage is recorded also in spring (March,
April), when snowmelt coupled with rich precipitation may trigger extensive flooding. Analysing the
above situations we could say that most flood events were registered in small drainage basins and in
torrential basinettes.
Limiting the negative effects calls for the afforestation of slopes in the affected drainage basins, the
construction of dams, the execution of works to consolidate or even change the direction of the roads
running close to some watercourses.
Key words: hydrometeorological risk phenomena, risk management, Alba Iulia Turda Depression,

A vast research programme within the International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction
(IDNDR) was implemented in the last decade of the 20th century. The programme, carried out under
the UN aegis, had in view to contribute to diminishing the effects of natural disasters. The conclusion
was that such interdisciplinary efforts should continue. As a result, the International Strategy for
Disaster Reduction, put in place at the beginning of the 21st century, was aimed at intensifying
multidisciplinary research efforts concerning the impact of hazards on society, this time with highlight
on risk management instead of risk protection. The idea was to have risk prevention strategies
included into sustainable development plans.
Awareness of the fact that 90% of the natural hazards are triggered by weather, climate and
water, made Disaster Prevention and Mitigation the theme of the 2006 anniversary of the World
Meteorological Organization (WMO). The findings revealed that 65% of all natural disaster-induced
economic damages registered over the 1992-2001 period were caused by hydrometeorological
disasters. While natural hazards cannot be avoided, integrating risk assessment and early warnings
into measures to prevent and reduce them may hinder risk effects from growing into disasters.
Appraising the vulnerability of communities to extreme phenomena implies observations to
enable quantifying the intensity and frequency of events, outline and predict damage. Therefore,
systematic studies of meteorological observations on natural hazards and their impact represent a
reliable risk management basis.

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Case-studies (2002-2006)
In line with the introduction, the paper expounds on some hydrometeorological phenomena
that affected the environment and society of the Alba Iulia Turda Depression (a subunit of the
Transylvanian Depression which lies in the central part of Romania) over the 2002-2006 period.
July 16-18, 2002 registered marked atmospheric instability manifest by a strong cyclonic
activity due to a high temperature-pressure contrast between Mediterranean and Polar masses of air
at the eastern periphery of the Azore Anticyclone. Central Europe was crossed successively by cold
and warm fronts along a median line, starting from the Balkan Peninsula and moving northwards
towards the Scandinavian Peninsula. This swift succession of front lines was felt also on the territory
of the Alba Iulia Turda Depression, unleashing heavy rainfalls, locally torrential, thunderstorms,
gusts of wind and local hail-associated showers. The strong rainfalls enhanced run-off on slopes,
floodwaves in catchments, entailing alluvial material and causing damage to households, roads,
croplands, electrical and telephone lines, etc.
Apart from atmospheric causes these risk phenomena were enhanced by the areas lithology
(sand-clay substrate), landforms (slopes and much fragmentation), soils and a reduced forest and
grass cover, the consequence of human activity (mainly arable land use and lots of settlements).
The quantity of rain fallen on those three days and registered by met stations and rain-gauge
points stood between 36.7 mm and 69.6 mm. They represented 50-90% of the July average
(observation points Ocna Mure, Benic and Ighiu). The rains fallen within 24 hours reached 59.2 mm
at Ocna Mure, 44 mm at Benic and 30 mm at Ighiu. However, torrential local precipitation produced
damages also in other localities than at the observation sites (Fig. 1).
The losses incurred by these extreme phenomena at Aiud, Cugir, Livezile, Pianu and Strem
amounted to 5,966,000,000 lei (ca. 180,000 ).
June 2, 2003, rain started pouring on elna Village, Ighiu Commune between 16.00 p.m. and
17.20 p.m. Their torrential character (43 mm at Ighiu) entailed run-off on slope. One person caught in
the events went missing. In 22 locations households, sheds, gardens, wells, cellars and kitchens were
filled with flood-carried mud. Thunderstorms damaged the Ighiu substation and electricity supply was
briefly cut (Fig. 1).
April 13-14, 2004, torrential showers formed floodwaves on the Mure, Arie, Ampoi,
Geoagiu, Galda, Pianu rivers and their tributaries, run-off on slope and landslides.
Heavy rainfall values averaged over 20 l/m2/24 hrs, with 42.8 at Sebe, 38.4 at Ighiu, 32.0 at
Benic, 31.9 in Alba Iulia, 30.0 at Teiu, 28.2 at Blaj, etc. Water quantities were not excessive, but the
intensity of precipitation led to channel waters swiftly rising and to overflows on most watercourses
(Fig. 1), with violent manifestation of the floods on small streams, in particular.
That water levels would rapidly grow over large areas was made possible also by the incipient
stage of vegetation, the poor forest cover in the respective drainage basins, the steep slopes and the
water-saturated soils. These violent phenomena reactivated and enhanced erosional processes and
deposition of alluvia in channels.
The outcome was damaged roads, bridges and foot-bridges, households, croplands, etc., most
affected being the settlements of Sntimbru and Strem.
July 23, 2004. Torrential rains associated with hail fell in the Galda, Geoagiu and Ighiu
drainage basins, totalling 41.0 mm/24 hrs at Benic, 40.0 mm at Ighiu, 41.0 mm at Brban and 48.2
mm in Alba Iulia. As a result, level increases and overflows occurred on the small streams (without
hydrometric control) and in the gully area of the Galda River basin. The floods carried big quantities of
sediment, depositing it at the slope-foot of the limitrophe terrains and in stream channels. Bank
erosion was also reactivated and amplified.
At Galda de Jos, squally winds blew and hail stones of up to 10 mm in diameter fell; Benic, the
most affected settlement, was hit by a 45 mm-long rain-and-hail storm that left 15 houses roofless,
destroying almost all vegetable gardens and orchards; at Mesentea, Galda de Sus and Cetea, crops
were washed away in proportion of 25%, 65% and 70%; 50% of the Galda de Jos vine culture was
lost. The Galda de Jos hailstorm affected 50% of the 510 hectares of cultivated land (180 ha of
orchard, 260 ha of cereal crops, 45 ha of vine culture and 25 ha of vegetables). Estimated losses were
close to 3 billion lei. In Strem Commune, run-off on slope destroyed some 0.22 km of the County
Road 750 C, estimated loss 50 million lei (Fig. 1).
On that day, the Strem, Galda de Jos, Grbova, Pianu and ibot communes totalled a loss of
6,080,000,000 lei (ca. 140,000 ).

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Fig. 1. The Mure Corridor in the Alba Iulia Turda Depression. Map of hydrometeorological
risk-prone areas. Case-studies: 1. July 2002; 2. June 2003; 3. April 2004; 4. July 2004; 5. May
2005; 6. June 2005; 7. July 2005; 8. settlement.

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March 17-18, 2005. Sudden temperature rises associated with snowmelt increased waterflows up to flooding levels, affecting households and croplands.
On March 15, a gradual warming process began, with a peak on the 17th and 18th : positive
diurnal temperatures, nocturnal values of 3-10C, on average, and diurnal maxima of 8-19C.
Mountain showers falling over the melting snow layer produced flood waves on the Mure, Arie,
Trnava Mic, Ampoi, Geoagiu, Galda, Pianu rivers and their tributaries, as well as run-off on slope.
About 200 m of the road linking Aiud city to Gmba settlement were flooded, inhabitants riding
a lorry tractor. Noteworthy, in Alba Iulia, the Mure River safety level rose by 85 cm.
Bank erosion on the Mure, Ampoi, Arie and Geoagiu was reactivated and if the process goes
on it may incur significant damage for the reparian population of the Ampoi, River who may lose its
cropland; besides, the National Highway (DN 74) infrastructure, and the electricity transmission towers
could be deteriorated. Erosion on the righthandside of the Mure River became particularly obvious in
front of Beldiu settlement, and was reactivated in front of the flooding flap of the Bega UPS Ocna
Mure Company and the water supply by-pass line of the SC Apa CTTA Alba Company.
In the localities of Aiud, Ocna Mure, Teiu, Blandiana, Mirslu, Mihal, Pianu, Rdeti,
Slitea, Strem and Unirea the floods damaged households, roads, foot-bridges, croplands,
hydrotechnical constructions, electrical networks and other objectives. Croplands and county roads
were severely affected particularly in Strem Commune.
The losses produced by the March 17th-18th events in the Alba Iulia Turda Depression
amounted to 15,320,000,000 lei (over 425,000 ).
On the night of May 26-27, 2005, a severe storm damaged the electrical network of several
Alba County settlements. A black out in one of Alba Iulias residential districts was due to the failure of
six substations. Heavy rainfall caused damage in Alba Iulia city and in the neighbouring localities;
several segments of a county road were covered with sediments, disrupting the traffic flow (Fig. 1).
June 5-20, 2005 heavy showers, even torrential over relatively large areas, fell within two
time-intervals: June 5-10 and 16-20, when the phenomena took on severer manifestations, incurring
serious damage. The cumulated quantities over the two intervals registered at some meteo stations
and water-gauge points came close to the multiannual mean values of June (80-100 l/m2). As a result,
the floodwaves on the small tributaries of the Mure River (the Aiud, Geoagiu, Galda and Cricu)
overflew the limitrophe areas, reactivating bank erosion and much run-off on slope, damaging
households, roads, electrical networks, croplands, etc. Most affected was Aiud city (Fig. 1), as well as
county, communal and foresters roads.
July 9-17, 2005 witnessed unstable weather with heavy showers, torrential over large areas,
associated with thunderstorms and temporary gusts of wind. The rains of July 11 and 12, in particular
increased flow rates and run-off on slope.
Cumulated quantities of precipitation registered in the 10-14 interval by met stations and raingauge points (60-70 mm) came close to the July multiannual means (70-110 mm). Huge quantities of
precipitation and moreover their intensity of reached even 2 l/min within short time-spam (5-10 min).
Heavy and intense falls on the 11th and 12th steep slopes and oversaturated soils led to the sudden
water level rise on most small watercourses, safety levels on the Mure, Aiud and Geoagiu rivers
being surpassed. Overflows in the Mure floodplain areas, enhanced flood-induced erosion also on
the Aiud, Galda, Ighiu and their tributaries. The Aiud water-gauge stations records show historical
maxima being overcome on the Aiud River by the July 12-13 flood events. In Alba Iulia, the cumulated
effects of precipitation from previous months, led to ground water levels rising and flooding the
basement of several houses.
The isolated showers fallen in the afternoon of July 17 averaged a total of up to 20 l/m2/24 hrs,
rising the Aiud River level at Livezile by 230 cm (Aiud water-gauge station) which correspounds to top
discharges of 44.2 cm/sec.
As a result houses, croplands, national highways, county, communal and foresters roads,
bridges and foot-bridges, defence structure, electrical networks, etc. were flooded.
The most dramatic situation throughout the Alba Iulia Turda Depression had the city of Aiud,
where torrential rains affected 300 families, and the Aiud Valley which was overflown (Fig. 1). A
number of 130 people were evacuated (Photos 1, 2, 3) and because five substations and two tension
towers had been destroyed hundreds of dwellings had no electricity. The Aiud city rail bridge being
flooded domestic and international traffic was disrupted for some four hours and several trains were
significantly delayed. In Aiud and Livezile Commune, torrential rainfall affected 320 household
annexes, the cellars and basements of 206 households, 40 wells, a metal bridge, 400 m of county
road, and 50 m of protection dam were eroded. In Aiud city, regulation works on the homonymous
river were affected by abutment damage along 130 m; in Mgura Village, 10 m of road gave way

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(Photo 4) and a house close to the local bridge was damaged. In ard settlement, protection of the
bank on the Ighiu River was impaired along 30 m.
As a consequence, the phenomena that raged in the respective period caused huge losses,
actually the biggest in 2005.
The summer of 2006 (June 2 - July 10) was again struck by negative phenomena. Showers
and hailstones, thunderstorms and gusts of squally winds were registered within two intervals: June 24 and June 19-21. Here and there, significant quantities of rain water would fall throughout the study
period, also associated with torrential rains, thunderstorms, high winds, hail and floods. Their
manifestations were extremely violent over a very short time-span.
Heavy precipitation, steep slopes, oversaturated soils, made waters rise suddenly and
successively, safety levels being surpassed at the Ocna Mure, Aiud and Benic water-gauge stations,
with overflows on the Mure, Galda, Aiud, Lopadea, Mirslu, Pianu and on other rivers, as well as
run-off on slope. In 2006, safety levels in Aiud city were again exceeded and a historical maximum
discharge was registered.
Strem and Mirslu settlements were hit by wind and hailstorms.
The biggest losses in the Alba Iulia Turda Depression, totalling 8,273,000 RON (over
2,330,000 ), had Aiud, Mirslu, Galda de Jos and Livezile.
The areas afferent to the Arie and the Mure basins were also the most affected ones
roads, croplands, households and annexes.
In all the cases discussed in this paper, the untoward atmospheric events had several effects:
economic roads, foot-bridges, electrical and telecommunication lines, households, social and
economic units, croplands; social panic among the population, a slowdown of development rates in
the affected zones, diminution of the populations income; ecological environmental degradation,
surface and ground water pollution, excess humidity and degradation of slopes; indirect effects costs
of defence during the events and of return to normal life in their aftermath.
Operative measures taken during the events: the informational system of the Alba County
Operational Centre for Emergency Situations was activated: primary data on the evolution of
phenomena were centralized by the corresponding institutions; affected areas were surveyed;
immediate intervention measures and responsibilities were established; people were evacuated in
special locations; medical assistance in case of necessity; warnings against polluted drinking water
and supplies of mineral water; sanitary and veterinary anti-epidemic measures; traffic restrictions in
the affected areas, etc. The following institutions, public services and economic agents assigned
defence tasks against flooding were involved: Unirea Inspectorate for Emergency Situations, Alba
County; County Police Inspectorate; County Military Police Inspectorate (Gendarmery); Red Cross;
Public Health Direction and other profile institutions.

A basic component of the risk entailed by exposure to extreme natural phenomena is human
society who bears and assesses their consequences. Defining the consequences may contribute to
anticipating losses and lay down risk management regulations.
The study region suffered severe damage, worsely affected being the road infrastructure, the
hydrotechnical constructions, the socio-economic units, electrical and telephone networks and the
According to the Unirea Inspectorate for Emergency Situations statistical records of
interventions to limit and remove flood effects over the past decade, the year 2005 alone represented
44% of all situations, a very great percentage, indeed.
Looking at the period of the year, when extreme negative phenomena occur, it appears that
June and July register the highest frequencies, as torrential rainfall often triggers flood events.
However, March and April, when snowmelt is associated with heavy rains, also may record vast
flooding episodes and significant losses.
Our findings have revealed that most of the floods triggered by meteorological phenomena of
great intensity over short periods of time occurred in catchment basins and gully-affected areas.
The map synthetising the 2002-2006 case-studies reveals that the effects of atmospheric risk
phenomena in the Mure Corridor and the Alba Iulia Turda Depression have distinctively different

Millions lei were used before 2006. 10,000 lei = 1 RON the value of currency after the 2006
monetary reform.
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frequency and intensity of occurrence, the most affected sector extending between Aiud and Alba Iulia
cities. What explains it is the fact that the reception basins of the Mure tributaries in this sector are
larger, developing in the Trascu Mountains and the Aiud Hills; besides, the great level difference
between source and mouth contributes to the accumulation of huge quantities of water and material
from the slope into the channel, moreover so as large, formerly forested areas have been cleared off.
Limiting these negative effects would require the afforestation of slopes in the affected
drainage basins, the building of dams or wire-netting of gully-affected areas, works of consolidation of
roads or even changing their layout if running in the proximity of watercourses.

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