France braces itself for severe wind and rain

Orange weather warnings have been issued today for severe wind and rain

Strong winds of up to 207 kph and heavy rain are forecast across much of east and central France today (December 20) as Météo France issues orange weather warnings for 16 departments.

The departments of Charente-Maritime and Landes, to the west, are on alert for flooding due to the risk of strong waves on the coast.

The Pyrenees and centre-east of the country will be most affected by strong winds, which Météo France has said will be “of an intensity that comes less than once a year”. Gusts will be especially strong in mountain regions.

Heavy rain is expected across the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, and Corsica from tonight, on “already fragile” ground, the forecaster warned. Between 20mm and 160mm of rain are expected in less than three hours, depending on the area, Météo France said.

There is also a strong risk of avalanche - level 4 or 5 - in the Mercantour massif, especially at altitudes of 1,800-2,000 metres, and up to 2,300 metres. This is due to the combination of wind accumulating snow into drifts, where it may then be dislodged by rain.

The weather is expected to affect driving conditions, air traffic, and train services; and could bring down electricity lines, Météo France warned. It alerted residents to avoid unnecessary movements, to bring in any outdoor furniture or objects, to avoid taking small secondary roads, and to be alert to falling trees or objects.

Residents in affected coastal areas are warned to avoid the coast completely, and to shut all windows and shutters that look towards the water. Boat owners are advised to bring their vessels out of the water and secure them on dry land. Those who must be at sea should wear safety equipment at all times.

The alert is expected to last until at least Saturday December 21.

The full list of departments on alert is:

Wind

Côte-d'Or, Saône-et-Loire, Ain, Rhône, Loire, Ardèche, Drôme, Isère

Rain and flooding

Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Var, Alpes-Maritimes, the Alpes-Maritimes coastline, Haute-Corse, Corse-du-Sud

Flooding only

Vaucluse, Charente-Maritime

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