A combination of cold weather, snow and ice means large parts of France are still on high alert, with warnings of power cuts in some regions of the country.

"/> A combination of cold weather, snow and ice means large parts of France are still on high alert, with warnings of power cuts in some regions of the country.

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WEATHER

Power threat as France struggles with big chill

A combination of cold weather, snow and ice means large parts of France are still on high alert, with warnings of power cuts in some regions of the country.

Power threat as France struggles with big chill
Clara Giraud

National weather forecaster Météo France has placed 28 French departments on “orange alert,” the second highest of the warnings it gives.

An orange alert warns of “dangerous” conditions with special attention needed on roads.

The Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté regions in the east were all badly affected on Thursday  as were the central Corrèze, Creuse and Cantal areas.

Even the Mediterranean port town of Marseille was affected, with palm trees covered in snow. Heavy goods vehicles were held back on motorways into the town causing traffic delays.

Météo France blamed the cold snap on a Siberian wind which made temperatures feel much colder than they really are.

Temperatures across the country were unlikely to get above between -3 and -6 degrees on Thursday, with the wind chill making the air feel much colder.

Newspaper France Soir reported that several regions were also at risk of losing electricity due to excessive demand. These included the north-west region of Brittany and the southern Alpes-Maritimes, Var and Monaco.

Residents of those areas were being asked to limit their electricity consumption between 6pm and 8pm. 

The national electricity grid operator RTE (Réseau du Transport Electrique) predicted that national electricity consumption would reach a peak of 95,500 megawatts at 7pm on Thursday evening. This would take it close to the highest ever consumption figure of 96,710 megawatts on December 15th 2010.

Temperatures are expected to fall even lower over the next few days, with -10 degrees expected in central France and around Paris.

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CLIMATE CRISIS

Scorching summer was France’s second hottest on record

Three heatwaves since June produced France's second-hottest summer since records began in 1900, the Météo France weather service said on Tuesday, warning that scorching temperatures will be increasingly common as the climate crisis intensifies.

Scorching summer was France's second hottest on record

With 33 days of extreme heat overall, average temperatures for June, July and August were 2.3C above normal for the period of 1991-2020.

It was surpassed only by the 2003 heatwave that caught much of France unprepared for prolonged scorching conditions, leading to nearly 15,000 heat-related deaths, mainly among the elderly.

Data is not yet available for heat-related deaths this summer, but it is likely to be significantly lower than 15,000 thanks to preventative measures taken by local and national authorities. 

Most experts attribute the rising temperatures to the climate crisis, with Météo France noting that over the past eight summers in France, six have been among the 10-hottest ever.

By 2050, “we expect that around half of summer seasons will be at comparable temperatures, if not higher,” even if greenhouse gas emissions are contained, the agency’s research director Samuel Morin said at a press conference.

The heat helped drive a series of wildfires across France this summer, in particular a huge blaze in the southwest that burned for more than a month and blackened 20,000 hectares. 

Unusually, wildfires also broke out even in the normally cooler north of the country, and in total an area five times the size of Paris burned over the summer. 

Adding to the misery was a record drought that required widespread limits on water use, with July the driest month since 1961 – many areas still have water restrictions in place.

MAP: Where in France are there water restrictions and what do they mean?

Forecasters have also warned that autumn storms around the Mediterranean – a regular event as air temperatures cool – will be unusually intense this year because of the very high summer temperatures. A storm that hit the island of Corsica in mid August claimed six lives. 

“The summer we’ve just been through is a powerful call to order,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Monday, laying out her priorities for an “ecological planning” programme to guide France’s efforts against climate change.

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