Violent thunderstorms, hail and 80km/h winds to hit central and southern France

Severe thunderstorms, hail and strong winds are expected to hit 19 departments of France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Occitanie regions on Friday.

Violent thunderstorms, hail and 80km/h winds to hit central and southern France

Météo-France have warned the general public of the possibility of “violent” summer thunderstorms hitting France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Occitanie regions this Friday. 

Thunderstorms are expected to be accompanied by heavy rains, hail and strong gusts of wind.

The country’s main meteorological body is referring to the phenomenon as “exceptionally stormy summer weather that requires special vigilance”.

A total of 19 departments are on orange alert (level 3 on a scale of 4) for severe thunderstorms.

The departments at risk are Ain, Allier, Ardèche, Aude, Aveyron, Cantal, Drôme, Gard, Hérault, Isère, Loire, Haute-Loire, Lozère, Puy-de-Dôme, Rhône, Savoy, Haute-Savoie and Tarn.

Météo France has also placed a large part of the rest of France on yellow alert (level 2 of 4) due to the stormy weather expected.

In the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region , the placid morning weather will turn ugly as the storms start in the early afternoon on the northern part of the Massif Central.

The bad weather will then spread quickly in the afternoon to departments in the north of the region.

In the Occitanie region , there will be a few thunderstorms in the morning followed by some calmer weather, then during the afternoon new thunderstorms will develop and make their way from the southwest to the north-east.

Heavy rains of around 30 mm to 50 mm (30 litres to 50 litres per square meter) are expected to fall in less than an hour, accompanied by lightning, hail and 80 km / h winds.

According to France’s La chaîne météo weather channel, rainfall totals announced correspond to “the equivalent of three weeks of rain”.

Large mudslides may occur on sloping terrain with a risk of flooding at low points.

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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.