Violent storms hit France with more on the way

A swathe of France was hit by violent storms overnight on Tuesday, with hail storms, strong winds and heavy rain causing widespread damage (see video). More extreme weather are on their way with 15 departments still on ‘Orange alert’ for storms.

Violent storms hit France with more on the way
Parisians shelter from the heavy rain. Photo: Francois Guillot/AFP

Firefighters had a busy night in France on Tuesday as summer storms caused damage in several parts of the country.

In the central city of Clermont-Ferrand and its surroundings firefighters were called out 600 times to deal with everything from flooded cellars to blocked roads after streets were turned into rivers by heavy downpours.

In the Corrèze region fiefighters were called out to clear roads, blocked by falling trees and deal with a fire at a transformer station which was sparked by a lightning strike.

In the Loire region emergency services reported that 400 homes were left damaged after hail storms hit the area. The force ofthe hail stones damaged rooves of homes in the area around Montbrison.

This video shown on French TV channel TF1 showed hail stones the size of ping pong balls falling in the Puy-de-Dôme department in the centre of the country.

In Limousin several night trains were blocked at Limoges station after a tree was blown over on the tracks. The tree was cleared at around 6am on Wednesday but SNCF have warned of delays on the line.

The storms are set to continue on Wednesday with warnings in place for 15 departments in the centre of the country.

The departments on "Orange alert" are Ariège, Aveyron, Haute-Garonne, Tarn, Lozère, Gard, Hérault, la Loire, as well as Ain, Ardèche, Drôme, Isère, Haute-Loire, Rhône et Vaucluse. 

The warnings were lifted on Wednesday morning in the region of Burgundy, which will be a relief for wine growers who have had their crops devastated by hails storms once already this summer.

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UPDATE: Swathes of France on alert for snow and ice as Siberian chill bites

French weather authorities have placed swathes of France on alert for snow and ice, violent winds and flooding as the big chill which has gripped the country in recent days drags on. But spring is just days away.

UPDATE: Swathes of France on alert for snow and ice as Siberian chill bites
The snow covered beach in Biarritz. Photo: AFP
Freezing weather continued to grip France on Wednesday, with temperatures down to -12C expected in northern France and -6C in the usually mild south, according to national weather agency Meteo France
In total, 58 departments in France are currently on orange alert — the second highest weather warning — for snow and ice, violent winds and flooding (see below). 
People in these departments have been advised to be very vigilant during the dangerous weather conditions. 
Map: Meteo France
Montpellier airport and Nimes airport in southern France are both closed as a result of the weather conditions. 
Biarritz in France's Basque country in the south west woke up to a blanket of snow several centimetres deep on Wednesday morning and people didn't waste any time capturing images of its snowy beaches (see below). 
Indeed, Tuesday night in France was the coldest of the winter, according to Meteo France, with the lowest temperatures seen in the central city of Lyon (-10C) and Metz in eastern France where it was an even chillier -12C. 

But while some are reveling in the unusual weather, others are struggling. 
Several flights flights out of Biarritz airport have been canceled and in Bayonne, also in the Basque Country, all lines have been suspended on the city's transport network. 
The town's beach, normally packed with sunseekers in the summer was left under a blanket of snow on Wednesday.
(Photo: François Xavier MENOU/Twitter)
A few brave swimmers braved the sea.
It was the same scene at snow-covered beach of Palavas Les Flots near Montpellier on the south coast (see images below).
On top of that the blanket of snow coating the A63 motorway, which leads to Spain, has led to several accidents. 
The Red Cross, which has set up emergency teams across Europe, also issued public appeals for 10,000 blankets in France, where about 50 local officials in the Paris region have vowed to spend Tuesday night outdoors to call attention to the plight of those with nowhere to sleep.
So far, four homeless people have died during this spell of icy weather. 
However the Siberian chill isn't set to last for long. 
After the snowfall spreads to the north of the country throughout the day on Thursday temperatures are expected to warm up quickly.
In the Basque country on Thursday, the snow will quickly be replaced by sun and the mercury is expected to rise to 17C.
Météo France forecaster Patrick Gallois said the rise in temperatures would be swift as France passes from winter to Spring in just 24 hours. Gallois told AFP that temperatures will rise by 10 degrees in just one day as the tweet below shows.
By Sunday the mercury is set to rise to around 15C in most of central and southern France.
Here are some more images of Biarritz in the snow.