Severe floods hit parts of northern France with more storms forecast

More storms were forecast to sweep across France on Tuesday a day after floods hit parts of the north of the country.

Severe floods hit parts of northern France with more storms forecast
Several French cities were flooded after several days of storms. Illustration photo: Nicolas TUCAT / AFP.

In the northern town of Beauvais, three months’ worth of rain fell in one day, leading to floods and collisions on the roads.

An eighteen-year-old man was still missing on Tuesday morning, according to local newspaper Courrier Picard. The newspaper reported that the fire service was called out almost 400 times.

Roads were flooded in the north-eastern city of Reims as well, after severe downpours on Monday evening.

It followed several days of heavy rain, hailstorms, and strong winds, with power cuts reported in many areas over the weekend.

Outdoor concerts organised for Monday’s Fête de la Musique were cancelled in several cities, including Tours and Nantes, because of heavy rain and strong winds.

More storms were expected on Tuesday afternoon, with downpours punctuated by thunder, according to Météo France.

Downpours were forecast to last all day from the Hauts-de-France region to the Pays de la Loire in the north-west. In the north-east, gusts were predicted to reach 70 km/h.

However as of Tuesday morning there were no longer any departments subject to “orange” weather alerts – the second highest warning level. However that could change as the storms roll in.

Most of the country was on yellow alert, with only the south-east and Brittany expected to be completely untouched. 

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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.