UPDATED: Parts of France placed on alert for snow and ice

France has been hit by a spell of wintery weather with nine departments across the country on alert for snow and ice.

UPDATED: Parts of France placed on alert for snow and ice
Photo: AFP
Some parts of the country have turned into a veritable winter wonderland, but that comes with its own hazards.
Eleven departments have been placed on orange alert — the second highest warning — for snow and ice by national weather agency Meteo France
Map: Meteo France
Initially people in these departments: Ariège, Cantal, Corrèze, Creuse, Haute-Garonne, Haute-Loire, Puy-de-Dôme, Hautes-Pyrénées and Var, are advised “to be very vigilant” because “dangerous conditions are expected”. Drivers are advised to be particularly cautious.
Then Méteo France added the two south west departments of Alpes-Maritimes and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence to the list of areas on alert.
In the Var department in the south between 5cm and 10cm of snow is expected on Friday evening while in the Pyrennees the heavy snowfalls that happened overnight are expected to continue on Friday morning.
In the Massif Central inhabitants of Clermont-Ferrand wok up to around 8cm of snow.
Much of the rest of the country is on yellow alert, the third highest warning and people are advised “to be careful and stay up-to-date with the situation”.
The current alerts are expected to remain in place until Saturday at 6am. 
Many people in France woke up to a blanket of snow on Friday morning, with Meteo France calling it the “first remarkable snow episode of the season which requires particular vigilance”.
The news of France's snowfall may justifiably come as a surprise, with this being the first time snow has been expected so early in the year since 2010.
“It's been seven years since we've had such early snow,” said Pascal Scaviner, head of the forecast service at the Weather Channel, according to Le Parisien.
While the mountains in France have already had their fair share of snow, between Wednesday and Sunday it is expected to fall on lower ground around the country.


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.