Heavy thunderstorms and floods hamper lockdown easing in southwest France

Parts of south west France are on red alert for floods and 26 other départments are on orange alert for heavy rain coinciding with the first day of France’s lockdown easing on Monday.

Heavy thunderstorms and floods hamper lockdown easing in southwest France
The bad weather in Gironde's capital Bordeaux started on Sunday. Photo: AFP/Météo France

In what could come across as some sort of biblical prophecy at the end of France’s 55-day strict lockdown, large swathes of the country are forecast to experience heavy rain on Monday.

None worse than Gironde and Landes departments on France’s southwest coastline, where Météo France has said rainfall “amounts in the next 24 to 48-hour period could reach close to the highest levels in a century in some places”, a period of extremely wet weather which already started on Sunday.

Twenty-six other departments have also been placed on orange alert for bad weather: Aube, Côte-d'Or, Haute-Garonne, Haute-Marne, Haute-Saône, Tarn, Vosges, Yonne, Charente-Maritime, Gers, Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher, Loiret, Lot-et-Garonne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées, Vendée, Paris and the inner suburbs (75-92-93-94), Seine-et-Marne, Yvelines, Essonne and Val-d'Oise.

“Over the past twelve hours, we have seen accumulations between 30 and 45 mm throughout the southwest,” Météo France said about the heavy rain front which began on Sunday.

“There’s been 50 to 70 mm of rainfall per sqm between the south of Gironde and the northeast of the Landes.”

These values are expected to increase to 130 to 150 mm in the same areas and in the border area with Lot-et-Garonne and Gers departments.

“This represents one to two months of rainfall in less than 36 hours, which more or less equals the highest values of the last a hundred years,” said France’s national meteorological service.

For the other departments of the region, 50 to 80mm of precipitation are expected until Monday night as well as 90 to 110mm in the department of Tarn.

According to Gironde prefecture, French rescue services had intervened 157 times in 52 municipalities By 9pm on Sunday, and five people had to be rescued because of rising waters.

A dozen secondary roads were flooded and blocked in southern Gironde as well as in Entre-Deux-Mers and Libournais.

In neighbouring Landes departments, firefighters carried out around 60 operations on Sunday, mainly for flooded homes and cellars.

Elsewhere in France, Île-de-France, Burgundy or Centre-Val-de-Loire are forecast to have “strong thunderstorms” on Monday evening.

The storms will bring rainfall in the order of 20 to 30 mm/h in these regions which could cause flooding and mudslides.  

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South west France on red alert for flooding

Five areas in south west France have been placed on a red weather alert for flooding as storms lash the region.

South west France on red alert for flooding
Storms are moving in to south west France over the Pyrenees. Photo: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP

Météo France has placed five départements in south west France – Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Landes, Hautes-Pyrénées, Haute-Garonne and Ariège – on a red weather alert for heavy rains and flooding.

Extremely heavy rainstorms have hit the area, with a band of storm clouds travelling along the Pyrenees, bringing the risk of avalanches in the mountains and flooding in lowland areas.

The neighbouring département of Pyrénées-Orientale is on orange alert, along with the principality of Andorra. In the north, Aisne is also on orange alert for heavy rain.

Heavy rain is expected to continue throughout Monday, gradually easing off towards the evening, although the flood alerts remain in place until Tuesday.