France set for weekend traffic misery as school holidays begin amid sizzling heatwave

Motorists in France could be set for a miserable day on the roads this weekend, which marks the beginning of the school holidays. To make matters worse the mercury could touch 40C in parts of the country.

France set for weekend traffic misery as school holidays begin amid sizzling heatwave
Photo: AFP

France’s traffic info service Bison Futé is advising motorists to avoid travelling on Saturday, when tens of thousands of holidaymakers will head out of cities towards the coast or countryside.

The service has classed Saturday as red – the second highest level before black – meaning travelling on roads out of all major French cities will be “very difficult”.

Friday, the last day of school, has been classed as orange, meaning the roads will be “difficult” for most of the country, but Paris and its surrounding Ile-de-France region is classed as red, with thousands set to leave the capital after work on Friday afternoon and evening.

The main motorways heading south to the Mediterranean, such as the A6, are expected to be particularly problematic on Friday evening and all day Saturday.

The motorways A6, A7, A40, A41 et A43 could be problematic for drivers throughout the weekend.

Bison Futé is advising holidaymakers to delay their journeys until Sunday if possible, when the roads are expected to be clearer.

Or if you really want to leave Paris on the Friday then go before midday.

Other advice given out by Bison Futé is to avoid the areas around all big cities between 4pm and 8pm on Friday as well as the A7 autoroute between Lyon and Orange between 10am and 7pm.

For those insist on leaving on Saturday then they are advised to go before 6am as most people head away in the morning and early afternoon.

The traffic service has already released its forecast for the summer months and included a list of days when driving really should be avoided.

Certain days in the summer, notably the famous crossover on Saturday July 29 – when July holiday makers return home and those who go away in August take to the roads – have been classed black. CLICK HERE for more information on the days to avoid.

The prospect of being stuck in traffic jams this weekend is made worse by the fact that the country is experiencing some scorching temperatures and parts of central and eastern France are on alert for heatwave.

The departments of Ain, Allier, Isère, Jura, Loire, Puy-de-Dôme, Rhône and Saône-et-Loire are all on alert for scorching temperatures which are expected to last until Sunday.

Forecasters say temperatures will hover around the mid thirties but in certain areas on heatwave alert they could touch 40C.




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.