The slogan '300 days of sunshine' is one that persists in Malta... because it's actually true (I genuinely looked this up). What is also true is that when the rains do hit Malta, it feels like a universal deluge has broken loose.
Now, Malta is not very well equipped for nasty weather. With so much sunshine most of the time, we take the remaining 65 days a little for granted - although we have all reasons not to! In fact, so little is said of Maltese storms that their fierceness can frighten the unacquainted visitor.
So, if you’re visiting any time between September and March, just be warned that you may experience this. But don’t worry! It’ll only be a couple of days (or indeed, hours) before the sun is shining again!
This, for example, is the beautiful Sliema waterfront where you’d go strolling without a care in the world on a sunny day, except like on this windy day in December 2016, when the waves would be chasing you down the street. This is not an exaggeration. I have personally driven through a wall of water on this seafront for some very long seconds when a freak wave rose and fell over my moving car.
The Gregale (Maltese: Grigal) is a strong, cool, northeasterly Mediterranean wind caused by low-pressure. It is one of two destructive winds that sometimes hit the island, the other being the Majjistral from the northwest.
Earlier this year, on 10th February, the Gregale caused a shipwreck in Qawra on the anniversary of St Paul’s shipwreck on the island in 60AD. While this is massive, waves lifting private boats onto the road, such as at Xemxija, is not uncommon. These waves are strong - forget taking pictures and just get out of their way!
There are no rivers in Malta, but who needs them when the waves and the rain make the streets their own? Just how many countries do you know that have storm water alarms installed in their towns and villages? In some areas of the island, such as Qormi and Birkirkara, home-owners must take special precautions to prevent rain floods from penetrating their homes.
We love the dramatic effect of the car alarm, don’t you? Anyway, when floods like these take the streets, unless you have pressing matters (like a plane to catch), just stay indoors! I mean, seriously. If Malta floods do this to cars, think what they could do to you. But who’s great idea was it to build a road right in the heart of a valley leading to the sea anyway?
It’s not all about the water; let’s return to the wind: the primary cause of of all this destruction. Mini-tornadoes and waterspouts sometimes make an appearance, like this tornado in the Grand Harbour in 2015.
The thunder and lightning
So now let’s talk about the fire, or electricity, to be precise. Akin, in my experience, only to claps of thunder in pre-monsoon Bengal, India, here’s the impressive sound of thunder and lightning in Malta in November 2020.
The hail (from hell)
And let’s not forget the hail: golf ball-sized chunks of ice falling from the sky with enough force to make panel beaters rich from a single hail storm. Dented cars are no fun, but I’m sure I’d enjoy being hit in the head by Maltese hail even less.
The snow (we wish)
It (almost) never snows in Malta, yet we do enjoy seeing the ground turn white from time to time with a layer of ice from hail that’s taking its time to melt after beating down with such force. It looks pretty and photos of a white Malta flood social media and local online magazines - how cute! We have all these awesome forces of nature at play and we miss the one thing that barely ever makes an appearance beyond a few flakes once in a blue moon.
Between 300 days of sunshine, dreams of a white Christmas and turning a convenient blind eye to what’s a little less pleasant to deal with, the Maltese sure are a romantic lot when it comes to the weather.