New weather alerts in four French départements after record-breaking storms

Four départements in the south of France are on orange weather alert for storms, a day after record rainfall led to localised flooding.

New weather alerts in four French départements after record-breaking storms
Record rainfall was recorded in parts of the Gard, southern France, on Tuesday, September 14th, 2021, as storms battered the area. Photo: Sylvain Thomas / AFP

Residents in the badly affected Gard département are braced for more bad weather on Wednesday, with the department remaining on orange alert for storms, heavy rain and flooding, less than 24 hours after forecasters briefly placed it on the highest red alert.

As well as Gard, residents in Hérault, Drôme, and Ardèche, are warned to be aware of heavy storms that could see up to 120mm of rainfall in some areas in a short period of time. Forecasters said the storms could also bring hail and strong winds.

Early on Wednesday, overnight weather alerts in four other département in the south of the country – Allier, Aveyron, Cantal, and Puy-de-Dôme – were taken down, but experts at Météo France did not rule out the possibility of extending orange storm alerts, its second highest warning level, to neighbouring areas throughout the day.

Two-and-a-half months of rain fell in just a few hours in the Gard on Tuesday, September 14th, flooding streets and homes in more than 60 communes. The village of Saint-Dionizy  recorded 244mm of rain in just three hours, according to Météo France – well beyond the previous record, of 216.4 mm in Saint-Martial on September 19, 2020. 

“Nothing foreshadowed an event of such magnitude,” Météo-France’s Marc Pontaud said on Tuesday.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who has visited the area, warned: “We are particularly vigilant in the Hérault and the Gard, where we fear other episodes of this type in the hours and days to come.”

He also promised that the formal process towards declaring a ‘catastrophe naturelle’ to release vital help for affected communes would begin in the next few days.

Meanwhile, concern is mounting for one person, who has not been found after falling into the river Rhôny in the town of Aimargues, according to the Gard prefecture, while two others who had been reported missing from the homes in Uchaud and Aigues-Vives have been found.

“The person was hanging on to debris and the rescuers heard him, then the contact was broken”, a spokesperson for local firefighters told AFP early on Wednesday.

One other person was slightly injured in a lightning strike, but no other victims have been reported.

Schools in the Gard remained closed on Wednesday, while rail travel through the department is expected to be disrupted until the weekend. The A9 motorway reopened yesterday evening, after being closed for several hours due to flooding. About 30 trapped motorists had to be rescued by helicopter as the waters rose.

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Trains delayed and roads slippery in Sweden despite lower snowfall

Sweden's state-owned rail company SJ cancelled several train services on Tuesday as a result of the snowy weather, while forecasters warned that roads could still be slippery in many regions.

Trains delayed and roads slippery in Sweden despite lower snowfall

SJ is cancelling several regional trains on Tuesday between Stockholm and Uppsala, Stockholm and Västerås, and Gävle and Linköping at the request of the Swedish Transport Administration, which wants to free up space on the tracks. 

At the same time, weather forecaster SMHI warned that, while snowfall would decrease over the day, there would still be a risk of slippery roads in many areas.

“It’s still continuing to snow, but the intensive snowfall we are now warning about will come to an end during the day, starting in the south of the country,” state meteorologist Angelica Lundberg told the TT newswire.  “Over the coming days there may be an increased risk of slipping and this is the case most of all close to the coast.” 

Bengt Olsson, press officer for the Swedish Transport Administration, told SVT that the disruptions seen on Sunday and Monday looked likely to ease off on Tuesday. 

“It’s a bit calmer so far. There’s another type of road surface to day. It’s starting to freeze up a but. There’s a lot of crust from the snow and patches of ice out on the road, so its the risk of skidding that we are trying to deal with today.”

The slippery roads have led to some busses being cancelled, with Dalatrafiken, the bus operator in Dalarna, cancelling several regional bus services. 

Buses parked at the Keolis bus depot in Värtahamnen cruise terminal in Stockholm.
Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Stockholm’s transport operator SL suspended the Lindingöbanan Light-railway line on Tuesday morning, and has also reduced some commuter train services. In Söderort, Huddinge and Botkyrka all bus services have been cancelled. 

“The measures taken to prevent skidding aren’t working,” SL’s press spokesperson Andreas Strömberg told SVT. “At Juliaborg in Huddinge six of our buses got stuck, so the traffic controllers decided to cancel all further services so we can get in snow ploughs.

Snow was continuing to fall on Tuesday over much of central Sweden, and SMHI has issued the lowest “yellow” weather warning for Sörmland, Västmanland, Örebro, Dalarna, and the north of Värmland. 

In most places, there is now between 5cm-15cm of snow, with 20cm in some places.