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Major snowstorm hits France – widespread disruption reported, 300 000 homes without power

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Snow, ice and heavy rain brought by the first major snowstorm of the 2019/20 season caused widespread disruption on the roads of southeastern France on November 14 and 15, 2019. At least one person has been killed and 300 000 customers left without electricity. Snow will not be as heavy today as it was yesterday, but traffic disruptions are likely through the rest of the day.

Reports mention many roads blocked and extremely slow movement on major routes throughout the Rhone-Alpes region on Thursday, November 14, with thousands of truck drivers stranded after A7 was closed for heavy goods vehicles.

Authorities have advised motorists to travel only if absolutely necessary.

Behavioral tips (Orange Snow-Ice):
  • Avoid taking the road. And be very careful if you have to move.  
  • Prepare your trip and your itinerary. 
  • Respect the traffic restrictions and deviations put in place. 
  • Facilitate the passage of clearance vehicles on roads and highways, especially by parking your vehicle off the road.
  • Protect yourself from falls and protect others by clearing snow and salting sidewalks in front of your home, while avoiding obstructions to water seepage.
  • Do not touch any fallen electrical wires.  

Train traffic was also affected. Routes between Annecy, Grenoble and Velence were closed after several trees fell on tracks. Interruptions in and around Grenoble are expected to continue on Friday.

One driver was killed in Roche after he tried to remove fallen trees from icy roads while another tree fell on him. A person helping him was injured in the same incident.

According to energy provider Enedis, several power lines fell due to heavy snow, disrupting power to some 300 000 customers in the departments of Ardèche, Rhône, Isère and Drôme. About 25 residents were evacuated from their homes after one of the power lines fell onto homes in the village of Saint-Julien-en-Saint-Alban.

According to Météo France, not much snow is expected today, but many places are still heavily affected and travel disruptions are likely through the rest of the day.

Totals up to 30 cm (1 foot) of snow are expected near Rhone, up to 40 cm (1.3 feet) at first heights and locally more than 50 cm (1.6 feet) above 500 m (1 600 feet) through 14:00 UTC, November 15.

Total rainfall accumulations equivalent to two weeks to one month of precipitation are forecast for Bouches-du-Rhône, Vaucluse and Var. Finally, wave-submersion phenomena are expected on the Var and Alpes-Maritimes coastlines. 

Valid 11:00 UTC, November 14 – 14:00 UTC, November 15. Credit: Meteo France

While this episode of heavy November snowfall is remarkable, it's not the first such event at this time of year, Meteo France said.

  • November 20, 2018 – 10 cm (3.9 inches) of snow fell on Grenoble-St Geoirs (384 m / 1 260 feet) and 3 cm (1.2 inches) in Ambérieu (250 m / 820 feet).
  • November 19/20, 2013 – abundant snowfall fell south of the Loire department and the east of the Haute-Loire. About 40 cm (1.3 feet) in the Saint-Etienne region.
  • November 21, 1999 – Snow fell in remarkable quantities. 60 cm (1.9 feet) was recorded in Montélimar, 15 cm (5.9 inches) in Aix-en-Provence, 35 cm (1.1 feet) in Malaucène (Vaucluse), 23 cm (0.7 feet) in Orange. These snowfalls and its holding on the ground for several days caused a lot of damage, with 5 000 homes without electricity.
  • November 18, 1996  – 5 cm (1.9 inches) of snow fell at Lyon-Satolas (the earliest snow in 21 years) and 20 cm (7.8 inches) in Besançon.
  • November 5 – 8, 1980 – 30 cm (1 foot) of snow fell in Boulou, 8 cm (3.1 inches) in Perpignan, 5 cm (1.9 inches) in Nîmes. Widespread snowfall was reported, sometimes abundant in the West with 15 to 20 cm (7.8 inches) in Rostrenen, Rennes and Dinard.
  • November 17, 1968 – Heavy snowfall was reported, with 22 cm (8.6 inches) in Belfort, 14 cm (5.5 inches) in Orleans, 12 cm (4.7 inches) in Marseille and 5 to 7 cm (2.7 inches) in the Paris region.

Featured image: Widespread traffic disruption as heavy snow hits southeastern France on November 14, 2019.

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