France issues first snow warnings of season as wintry weather arrives

The south east of France was braced for some rough wintry weather on Thursday with snow, icy conditions and torrential rain and flooding set to hit the region. Residents have been advised to take precautions.

France issues first snow warnings of season as wintry weather arrives
Illustration Photo: AFP

UPDATE: CLICK HERE to read the latest news on how heavy snow has caused widespread chaos in south-east France



The country's weather service Météo France placed 11 departments in the south east of the country on alert for either snow and ice or downpours that bring a risk of flooding.

The départéments of Saône-et-Loire, Rhône, Loire and Ardèche were placed on Orange alert – the second highest warning level – on Friday morning for snow and icy conditions. The départéments of Ain, Drôme and Isère were also placed on alert for the same wintery conditions on Wednesday evening. (see map below)

The winter weather warnings are due to remain in place until Friday morning. Météo France warns that the whole of the Rhône-Alpes region could see snowfall on Thursday afternoon.

Further south the départéments of Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône and Var were on alert for heavy rainfall while Alpes-Maritimes and Var also had warnings in place for coastal flooding.

Residents in the départements with weather warnings in place were advised to take precaution when travelling and avoid unnecessary trips.

In areas at risk of flooding, drivers are warned not to attempt to cross roads that are submerged.

Those who live in coastal départéments are advised to avoid going near the sea. 


The general weather map for Thursday showed how snow could hit parts of the south east whilst it was a different story in the north of the country.

But across France on Thursday temperatures took a dip as the first real cold snap of the season arrived, with temperatures more like those seen in January than November.

In Burgundy and parts of the east of the country like Alsace the mercury will fall to around 0C to 3C on Thursday morning, while much of the rest of the country will see temperatures between 2C and 6C.

It will be slightly less chilly near the Mediterranean, with the mercury forecast to hit 10C.

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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.