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In Tijuana’s history, the story of the 1993 rains is written, a period that impacted the citizens and left lessons that are still considered today.
Tijuana it has witnessed multiple stories over the years, undoubtedly one of the most impactful for the population were the rains that battered the city in January 1993, one of the largest tragedies in the region’s history that resulted in the loss of a hundred lives.
It all began in the early hours of January 5, 1993, when the meteorological phenomenon known as ‘El Niño‘ manifested itself in the region. The precipitation reached unprecedented levels, with the amount of rain equivalent to an entire year’s worth recorded in just two minutes. With an accumulation of 300 millimeters in just 24 hours, the rainfall far exceeded the city’s infrastructure’s capacity to respond.
Despite having forecasted heavy rains, the authorities were taken aback by the intense reality of the phenomenon. More than 8,000 citizens had to be evacuated due to the imminent risk of floods.
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According to Civil Protection records, at least 110 people lost their lives, some drowned, others swept away by the currents of streams, and several buried under landslides of mud and soil.
A challenge for Tijuana’s infrastructure.
The National Disaster Center establishes that the rainfall tolerance in Tijuana is 38 millimeters in one month. However, on that day, the city faced a monumental challenge when approximately 300 millimeters fell in less than 24 hours. The aftermath of that rainfall paralyzed daily life for nearly a month.
Despite the warnings, the then-mayor, Héctor Osuna Jaime, was reluctant to request assistance from state and federal authorities. It wasn’t until almost a month later that the intervention of the army was accepted, implementing the DN-III Plan to address the magnitude of the disaster.
The 1993 rains left a mark on the population of Tijuana, but they also served as a lesson that is still taken into account 30 years after the events.
The lack of stormwater infrastructure and improper land development were identified as key factors that contributed to the magnitude of this natural disaster. In response, it was agreed to build a network of stormwater channels to prevent similar situations in the future.
Why were the 1993 rains in Tijuana so intense?
The flooding in Tijuana during this time was due to the intense rains caused by the meteorological system ‘El Niño’. This climatic phenomenon occurs in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and is characterized by the abnormal warming of the surface waters in the region, which has a significant impact on global weather patterns.
In 1993, ‘El Niño’ generated extraordinary rainfall in Tijuana, which significantly exceeded the city’s drainage capacity, resulting in a flood that became part of the city’s history.
The importance of good urban planning.
Despite these mitigation measures, five years later, in 1998, Tijuana faced flooding once again, albeit to a lesser extent, making it clear that there was still work to be done.
The lack of proper drainage and the blockage of waterways in high-risk areas once again resulted in loss of lives. To prevent further occurrences, efforts were intensified in the creation of stormwater infrastructure, and state and municipal Civil Protection councils were established to coordinate actions for timely response in case of emergencies.
Today, the memory of the 1993 rains remains in the collective memory of Tijuana, not only as a tragic memory but as a constant reminder of the importance of planning and effective response to natural phenomena that challenge the limits of a city that continues to grow.
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Sources: TV Azteca Baja California, El Universal, Frontera Norte