A cold front was responsible for the torrential rainfall. Temperatures have been warmer than normal across the Atlantic. As the cold front crossed these warm waters, abundant moisture was drawn into the system.
The worst flooding was on the south side of the island. The capital of Funchal, located on the southern coast of the island, experienced extreme flooding.
Southerly winds accompanied the rain, which enhanced the rainfall on the south-facing slopes of the mountainous island.
The mountains just north of Funchal and the southern coast of Madeira rise to more than 4,000 feet over just a few miles. The water gained so much momentum, it tore bridges and buildings apart as it raced through the center of Funchal and other urban areas on the south side of the islands.
The Associated Press reports the death toll has surpassed 40.
More rain is expected in the coming days. An active storm track will remain in place across the island through the week, but rain of the magnitude witnessed over the weekend is not likely.
Story by Accuweather.com Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel.
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