France heatwave: more areas on official alert, what does this change?

19 departments will be facing a tier-three warning tomorrow. We look at what actions are being taken to protect residents

Temperatures in the areas on alert could reach 40C this weekend
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France is continuing to battle higher than average temperatures, with almost 30 departments now facing heatwave warnings across the country today (August 17).

Out of the 29 departments facing warnings, seven are tier-three orange warnings, situated around the Rhône Valley – an area that has been struggling with blazing temperatures for over a week.

Tomorrow, however, there will be 19 departments facing a tier-three warning.

Departments in the south west and south east are also facing warnings, as temperatures are set to continue to rise until the weekend.

Météo France warns that temperatures could reach 40C this weekend around the Mediterranean, Garonne, and Rhône.

Fellow weather forecasters La Chaîne Météo said “three quarters of the country” will be in heatwave-like conditions on Thursday and Friday.

French electricity giant EDF announced that due to the heat, two nuclear reactors could be temporarily disabled in the country for safety reasons – although it said there was lower demand for electricity because of the heat.

Increased warnings for two departments

There are now seven departments facing tier-three orange warnings for canicule (heatwave).

In addition to the five departments already under warnings (Ain, Rhône, Savoie, Haute-Savoie, and Isère), Haut-Loire and Loire have been added to the list.

There are also 21 other departments on a tier-two warning for heatwaves, stretching from Doubs in the north to Alpes-Maritimes in the south east and Tarn in the south west.

The alerts raise significantly tomorrow, however, with the number of departments facing a tier-three warning tripling.

The full map showing the departments facing heatwave warnings tomorrow (August 18) can be seen below.

Credit: Météo France

The Connexion reported yesterday that these temperatures may not fall until a storm passes across France next week.

Temperatures at the beginning of next week before the storm could reach 39C in Lyon, 32C in Paris, and 37C in Perpignan.

Read more: France hot spell: what is the outlook on how long it will last

What does it mean to be in a heatwave?

The departments are facing a warning for a canicule, or official heatwave.

A canicule is declared when temperatures are above a certain level during the day, remain above a certain level at night, and this lasts for three consecutive days.

The official temperatures required for a heatwave to be declared can vary from department to department in France - this article explains.

When given a warning by Météo France, departments can enact their plan canicule – a set of measures put in place to address the risks of the heatwave.

At a level-two yellow warning, departments can place hospitals, crèches, and retirement homes on an increased level of alert, and begin making preparations for a tier-three warning to come into effect.

When a level-three orange warning reached, hospitals will start making extra assistance available to elderly patients.

Mairies will also begin contacting elderly people in their commune, if they are on the registre canicule.

Those over the age of 65, or other vulnerable people can be put on this list, and will be regularly contacted during the heatwave to see if they require assistance, and remind them of tips to stay cool.

When a department reaches a tier-four red level for heatwaves (which has not yet happened so far in 2023), departments will start preparing for a loss of drinking water, potential power cuts due to the heat, and the saturation of hospitals from patients suffering heat-related illnesses.

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