There’s no calm after the storm

by Matteo de Mayda

An extreme weather event struck northeastern Italy in October 2018. The sirocco wind blew up to 200 kilometers per hour in the Dolomite valleys, causing approximately 14 million trees to be uprooted. The incessant rain caused streams to overflow, dragging tree trunks and debris downstream. Overnight, residents of some mountain communities in Trentino, Veneto, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia found their basements flooded and their homes battered by the wind.
Six years later, the consequences of the Vaia storm are still visible and tangible. Many trees remain on the ground because gathering them is a complex operation that requires experience and resources. The European spruce bark beetle feeds on their wood, a parasitic beetle that moves from dead trees to those still standing, causing damage six times greater than that of the storm. Furthermore, fallen trees no longer fulfill their function of protection against landslides and avalanches, and the disturbed beds of streams are no longer able to channel and contain water. While experts and locals roll up their sleeves to restore the situation to normalcy, the overall economic damage has been estimated at three billion euros.
Storms have always been part of the history of forests, but global warming is amplifying their magnitude and frequency. By mixing archival and reportage photos, satellite and microscopic images, community testimonies, and scientific theories, “There’s no calm after the storm” investigates the long-term consequences of the Vaia storm. It aims to analyze what happened with the necessary time to ponder causes, responsibilities, consequences, opportunities, and future prospects, raising public awareness on the issue of climate emergency and the fragile balance between human actions and the resilience of ecosystems.
The project was carried out in collaboration with journalist Cosimo Bizzarri, the TESAF and DAFNAE departments of the University of Padua, and the Italian Sustainability Photo Award Grant.