RESIDENTS in the Gard have been warned to take extreme care if travelling today as a red storm and flood warning was issued this morning.
It followed orange alerts for long-suffering residents in Ardèche, Drôme and Hérault with all four departments facing another weekend of heavy rains and possible flooding after successive storms that have left the ground saturated.
Météo-France issued the red alert for the Gard until 6.00 tomorrow with people warned not to drive on flooded roads or to go near watercourses.
The orange alert in the other departments last until tomorrow evening but it is expected to be extended to Monday as forecasters fear the area faces the equivalent of six months’-worth of rain over four days.
A large swathe of central France has also been been on yellow alert as rains sweep across from the south-west to north-east.
This morning a line of storm-clouds from eastern Hérault into Gard has seen rainfall of up to 7cm. Last night the Cévennes was hit by up to 13cm and Drôme by 9cm causing a grave risk of flooding. Ardèche has had a temporary respite this morning but storms are set to return.
Tomorrow morning eastern Hérault and Gard will face rains of 15cm and perhaps more, with Ardèche being warned of a possible 20cm in 24 hours, especially on high ground. Northern Drôme and the Rhône valley will face violent storms with possible hail.
Residents in Hérault are again on orange flood alert from the river Lez with flooding already reported further north-east, around Nîmes, where rivers including Cèze, the Gardons and Vidourle are very high.
The storms are being caused by a vast depression over the south-west Atlantic which has caused warm, very moist air to move over south-western France. Once this meets cold, dry air over higher ground in Languedoc and the Cévennes this sparks intense thunderstorms – often stationary.
Météo-France says the Cévennes and the high ground north of Montpellier has had 60cm of rain since September 1.
This is the Hérault’s fourth storm episode, with more than 20cm of rain falling in 24 hours on September 16 and 17, September 29 and October 6.
Weather graphic: Météo-France