Storms latest: North east France on alert

Weather warnings remained in place across much of France on Thursday as unseasonal violent storms continued to wreak havoc in many regions. The storms have now claimed the lives of three people. Read the latest weather updates here.

Storms latest: North east France on alert
Barèges : Aerial picture taken on June 19th, 2013 over Bareges shows a damaged road next to a flooded river. Photo Laurent Dard/AFP

In all, 27 departments across France remained on orange alert on Thursday with the prospect of further storms and floods likely throughout the day.

Much of the north and east of France remained on alert after storms more akin to the tropics battered the region on Wednesday evening.

In the latest example of the extreme weather to hit France, a mini tornado swept through the town of Châtillon-sur-Seine in the eastern Cote d’Or region destroying several houses.

"It was hell, many houses have no roofs, barns were struck by lightning. There was a terrible wind. It was endless,” one witness told BFMTV.

There was better news on Thursday for the south west of France, which has been devastated by flood waters in recent days.

Météo France finally lowered the warning level from red to orange in the departments of Pyrénées-Atlantiques and Hautes-Pyrénées.


France’s meteorological service said however that the central and western Pyrénées region still faced the prospect of floods, which have claimed three lives in recent days.

The latest person to lose their life was a motorist who drowned in his car in the Landes region of the south west overnight on Wednesday.

Earlier, a 75-year-old man was swept to his death after the flood waters at Luz-Saint-Sauveur in the Pyrenees turned a local stream into a torrent.

That tragedy followed the death of a woman in her 70s who drowned overnight on Tuesday after becoming trapped in her car as it was swept away by severe flooding in the town of Pierrefitte-Nestalas, Haute-Pyrénées.

More than 2,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes and the Catholic shrine at Lourdes was submerged under a torrent of raging water and has remained closed to pilgrims.

Thousands of visitors had to be evacuated from submerged hotels and re-housed in other parts of town.

Interior Minister Manuel Valls and his colleague the Minister for Ecology Delphine Batho visited Lourdes on Wednesday to survey the damage caused by the raging waters, which had been boosted by rapid snow melt in the Pyrénées.

The Paris region was also hit by storms again on Tuesday evening as was the north east of the country.

Between 5pm and 8pm the emergency services in Paris were bombarded with over 6,000 calls, around the number they would normally receive in a 24 hour period.

This is how the weather map looks for France on Thursday.

A video from France's BFMTV also shows the extent of the damage in south west France. (Commentary is in French)

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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.