Flood warnings issued for southern France with violent storms forecast

Flood warnings have been issued for southern France as torrential rainfall and thunderstorms are forecast.

Flood warnings issued for southern France with violent storms forecast
The storm is predicted to strike along the Mediterranean cost. Photo: AFP

The Mediterranean coast of France is predicted to be hardest hit, with a month's worth of rain expected withing 48 hours in some areas.

Forecast to hit from around 6am on Tuesday, the very heavy rainfall will be concentrated along the coast and three départements – Aude, Hérault and Pyrénées-Orientales – have been placed on orange alert.

French weather forecaster Météo France said: “The intense rainstorms will begin on Tuesday morning in the Pyrenees and off the coast, and will then affect the three départments in the morning.

“There will be violent localised thunderstorms generating strong rainfall of around 30 to 50 mm in a short time, 50 to 100 mm in a few hours.

“Hail and strong wind gusts are expected.
“After dying down, a new intense rainstorm organisation is expected in these same départments overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday.
“The total rainfall expected over the entire episode is around 100 to 150 mm overall, with 200 to 250 mm, or even more, in some areas.”
Some localised flooding is expected and driving conditions are likely to be extremely difficult during the storms.
The rains, although less intense, will hit most of southern and central France over the next two days.

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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.