A man drowned in his car in Spain's northern Navarre region on Friday after a huge downpour caused a local river to burst its banks and flood several nearby towns.

Residents of the Navarre towns of Tafalla, Olite and Puello couldn't believe their eyes when a sudden and gigantic downpour burst the banks of the local Cidacos river on Friday evening, flooding streets and local shopping centres as well as dragging cars through the streets.

One man was reported by Navarre authorities to have drowned after his car was dragged by the floodwaters several kilometres downstream.

Railways and motorways near Tafalla had to stop operating as a result of the extreme downpour. Many of drivers caught in traffic were rescued from their cars by emergency services as they were at risk of being swept away.

"When I started seeing cars with their lights on actually floating down the Cidacos river I knew this was very serious," one resident told Spanish broadcaster RTVE.

According to Olite authorities the Cidacos's water level went from 11 centimetres to 4.23 metres in less than six hours, the highest level on record.

Navarre has certainly got the worse of the violent downpour but a total of 31 provinces in Spain's northern and eastern regions were on orange alert for hail, storms and heavy rains, including Aragón, La Rioja, Valencia and Castille and Leon.

The extreme weather front also reached Spain's northwestern region of Galicia. The province of Ourense also recorded serious flooding and severe hail storms.

Spain's national weather agency had actually given Navarre a yellow alert, but it was this autonomous community that bore the brunt of the violent weather.

The town of Olite saw 97.6 litres per square metre fall on Monday, the highest downpour in all of Spain. But in the nearby town of Guetadar the total after midnight was of 159.7 litres sq m and in Tafalla levels reached 100.2 litres sq m.

In the capital Pamplona Tuesday's morning running of the bulls (part of the San Fermines festivities) had to be cancelled because of heavy rain in the city.