Raging thunderstorms hit many parts of Switzerland on Tuesday night, causing roads to rapidly flood while city streets emptied as frightened pedestrians fled for cover.

 

"/> Raging thunderstorms hit many parts of Switzerland on Tuesday night, causing roads to rapidly flood while city streets emptied as frightened pedestrians fled for cover.

 

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Raging storms hit Switzerland

Raging thunderstorms hit many parts of Switzerland on Tuesday night, causing roads to rapidly flood while city streets emptied as frightened pedestrians fled for cover.

 

Buckets of rain poured down on Canton Graubünden and Canton Zurich overnight, while hail drops the size of golf balls fell amid powerful gusts of wind.

In Zurich, the whirling storm raged for half an hour with heavy rain hitting windows almost horizontally during a crescendo of exceptionally long flashes of lightning.

“Outside the window, there was a white wall of rain and hail. You could not even see the road. And it flashed almost continuously,” reads one comment from a reader on the online version of the 20 Minuten daily, which dedicated a special section to videos and photographs from the storms.

Trees fell on cars and blocked traffic in various parts of the country, reports said. A 35-year-old woman in a barbecue area near the Cresta Lake had a narrow escape when she found herself in the middle of two falling trees, said a report by the Corriere del Ticino newspaper. She was hit by a branch on the head but was not injured.

The weather also caused heavy disruptions to the rail network. 

In the Bernese Oberland, a fallen tree blocked rail traffic for hours and 64 people had to be evacuated by helicopter from the Schynige Platte. In Interlaken, near Bern, a ten-minute period saw as much rainfall as is normally recorded in the entire month of April, said MeteoNews.

The storms came after another storm caused about 10 million francs ($12 million) worth of damage in the Appenzell region. The army was summoned to the area to help fire fighters clean out the streets, the Corriere del Ticino said.  

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WEATHER

What’s next after Switzerland’s ‘extremely worrying’ heatwave?

Switzerland hit record high temperatures for June for the first time in 75 years on Sunday but what's the forecast for the coming days and weeks?

What's next after Switzerland's 'extremely worrying' heatwave?

With 36.9C recorded in Beznau, in the canton of Aargau on Sunday, Switzerland equalled the high temperature record held by Basel since 1947.

Other Swiss towns experienced sweltering temperatures as well: In Neuchâtel the mercury rose to 36.5C, in Sion it hit 36.4C and  in Lausanne it was 32.6C, according to MeteoNews.

Temperatures were decidedly more pleasant at high altitudes in the mountains: the temperature of 16.9C was recorded at 2,900 metres in the shade on the Diablerets glacier.

Whilst lower down at the Moléson in Fribourg, which stands at 2,000 metres, a more seasonal 24 degrees was recorded.

Like its neighbours, “Switzerland is not immune to brief and extreme phenomena”, climatologist Martin Beniston, honorary professor at the University of Geneva, said in an interview with Tribune de Genève.

And if high temperatures continue — as they are forecast for next days — “the very dry ground will reinforce the warming, it is a vicious circle”, said Vincent Devantay, meteorologist from MeteoNews.

This means higher risk of fires, especially in the forest. “They have really dried up compared to last year. The lack of rain is becoming extremely worrying”, he pointed out.

Thunderstorms are predicted in parts of Switzerland towards the end of the week but they will not necessarily prevent the drought, Beniston said.

What the soil needs are “gentle showers, repeated, for two to three weeks”, rather than occasional heavy thunderstorms that don’t provide enough moisture for the earth’s deeper layers.

Continued rains are not expected in the immediate future and  forecasts for the summer months predict more intense heatwaves.

READ MORE: How this week’s heatwave will hit Switzerland and how to stay cool

What are the consequences of the heatwave and no rain?

As The Local already reported, Swiss glaciers are now melting faster than usual, partly due to the early heat wave in May.
 
READ MORE: Why Switzerland’s glaciers are melting faster than usual this summer

But there is more.

Hydrologist Massimiliano Zappa, also warns that current very high temperatures and no rain could speed up the drought across Switzerland, especially as Swiss rivers and streams “have a lower flow than the average of previous years”.

Water rationing could become inevitable, he said.

 “In Spain and southern Italy, for example, people know how to get by with little water, because they have been educated to meet their daily needs with less. But this is not part of Swiss mentality”, Zappa said.

The heat wave could also impact railway installations as well as electronic devices, according to Le Temps newspaper.

“Overheated smartphones, expanding rails, and computer fans running at full speed: high temperatures put a strain on infrastructure and our everyday objects, while requiring more energy”, Le Temps said.
 

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