Thunderstorms and Floods: Nine Departments of the South Now on Orange Alert

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Thunderstorms and floods: nine departments of the South now in orange vigilance

Meteo France has extended the orange alert concerning Occitanie to Provence and the Côte d’Azur.

Nine departments of the South and South-East are now placed in orange alert for storms and rain-floods by Meteo France this Wednesday 23rd October 2019. 

These are six departments of Occitanie : Aude, Aveyron, Gard, Hérault, Pyrénées-Orientales, plus the Alpes-Maritimes (on the coast), the Bouches- du Rhône , Var and Vaucluse . The departments of Aude and Pyrénées-Orientales also remained in the morning placed in raw orange vigilance. Vigilance was lifted in the Tarn.

Read also: Cut roads, heavy rain storms, wind: the record of this night of bad weather in Occitania

“Not significant from the point of view of civil security”

The nine departments face “a notable phenomenon but not significant from a civil security point of view,” reassured in a brief press briefing Colonel Arnaud Wilm, deputy head of the Interdepartmental Crisis Management Operational Center (COGIC) .

“The situation does not present a degree” of dangerousness that would require “reorganize the device” deployed since Tuesday, involving a total of 1500 firefighters and lifeguards and six helicopters, he noted.

Peak precipitation is now in Herault, where 70 rescuers are mobilized, but “at the end of the day the phenomenon should be evacuated,” he added.

The “marked rainy-stormy Mediterranean episode” that has swept the area since Tuesday, with a late-night peak, eventually later than expected, has resulted in the closure of many road sections, especially on the shoreline, torn roofs and trees and flooded homes.

In its 10-hour bulletin, Météo France describes the situation as follows: “These storms are still gaining the coast and the near-shore of the Aude and Hérault departments. Heavy rains continue to water further north Aveyron. On the other hand, the rainfall weakens on the tarn, the Eastern Pyrenees and Andorra. “

At 5 o’clock this Wednesday morning, over the last 24 hours (and often in just a few hours), there were 197 mm in Argeles-sur-Mer, 127 mm in Perpignan, 131 mm in Tautinya in the Pyrenees Orientales; 177 mm at Sigean, 130 at Granes in the Aude; 113 mm in Vieussan, 94 mm in Béziers in the Hérault.

Closed roads, camping evacuated …

In the Pyrénées-Orientales, the coastline was the most impacted, with a dozen closed or cut off departmental roads and flooding in Saint-Cyprien streets leading to the seafront, while ten people had to be relocated following a mini-tornado, according to the prefecture and the COGIC.

Some 300 firefighters mobilized 82 interventions following the damage of homes in Port-Vendres, Argelès-Sur-Mer and Tresserre as well as on South Perpignan. In Cerbère, two vehicles were taken away.

In the Aude, where two campsites were evacuated as a precaution Tuesday night, eight sections of departmental were cut off in the morning, while the Port of Port-la-Nouvelle was closed.

Flooded street on October 23, 2019 in Gruissan, Aude.
A flooded street on October 23, 2019, in Gruissan, Aude. (© AFP / Eric CABANIS)

In this department, mourned a year ago by a similar Mediterranean episode that had killed 14, gusts of wind, avoiding a “cumulative phenomenon” and anticipation have made the difference this year, noted Colonel Wilm .

The morning, however, remained difficult for the inhabitants: in Narbonne-beach, Nathalie Garcia, 46, was making its way through the 10 to 15 cm of water flooding the road: “I wanted to go to work, but I’m afraid to stay stuck. What worries me is the wind, it is announced at 100 km / h, it means that the sea may rise “.

The device was reduced to 350 firefighters, including reinforcements of aquatic rescuers, said the prefecture of Aude.

Rail traffic was also interrupted on the Narbonne-Béziers line, with flooded tracks in the Salses (Pyrénées-Orientales) and Béziers stations, tweeted the SNCF.

Violent gusts of wind and submersion waves 

Météo France forecasts for the middle of the day and in the afternoon that violent storms will reach the Bouches-du-Rhône and Vaucluse, then the Var. “Thunderstorms are violent and locally give strong accumulations of rain, of the order of 50 to 80 mm in less than 3 hours. They are accompanied by violent gusts of wind, hail, and strong electrical activity. “

In the Aveyron, Tarn and Gard, cumulative expected Tuesday and Wednesday are of the order of 150 to 200 mm on the southern relief of these two departments, locally more. The rest of these departments will also be affected by notable accumulations, which will vary from 40 to 70 mm.

The strong waves generated from the East sector on the Gulf of Lion will become stronger during the morning, then begin to subside in the afternoon.

“In connection with these strong winds and these strong waves, a significant elevation of the level of the sea is expected.”

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