Hail storms, wild fires and heatwave put France on alert

Residents in the south west have been warned about violent storms and hail showers, those in the south face wildfires and in Paris it's the heat that the locals need to be aware of.

Hail storms, wild fires and heatwave put France on alert
Photo: AFP

In all, 11 departments in the south west were placed on Orange alert on Tuesday morning by Météo France with violent storms, featuring hail showers and gales set to sweep through the region.

The departments on orange alert are Vienne, Deux-Sevres, Charente-Maritime, Charente, Dordogne, Gironde, Lot-et-Garonne, Gers, Landes, hautes-Pyrénées, Pyrénées-Atlantique.

“This wave of storms will be marked by a high risk of localised hail storms, violent gusts of wind reaching 80 to 90km/h, possibly passing 100km/h,” reads the warning on Météo France.

Intense downpours are also predicted with up to 60mm of rainfall forecast in some areas over a short space of time.

The alerts are set to come into place at 2pm on Tuesday and will last until midnight.

Temperatures have been high in the region, including up to 35C in Dordogne, but they will give way to storms throughout the afternoon, which will hit the western end of the Pyrenées mountains first.

Elsewhere in France it was a different story.

The Ile-de-France region around Paris, was placed on yellow alert – the one below Orange – for a mini-heatwave which will see temperatures sneak into the low 30s on Tuesday.

Forest fires warning in south

Residents in the south of France have also been asked to be on alert for wild fires due to the ongoing high temperatures and lack of rain in the region. High winds have exacerbated the danger.

France’s General Direction of Civil Security is asking people to be extremely careful on Tuesday in the departments that lie on the Mediterranean coast, where wildfires have already burned hundreds of hectares of land this summer.

Temperatures are set to fall towards the end of the week as the storms make their way across the country which should herald the arrival of typical autumnal weather.



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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.