A low pressure system bringing heavy snowfall and wind speeds of up to 180 km/h is expected to continue into Friday.

"/> A low pressure system bringing heavy snowfall and wind speeds of up to 180 km/h is expected to continue into Friday.

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First storm of the year keeps skiers away

A low pressure system bringing heavy snowfall and wind speeds of up to 180 km/h is expected to continue into Friday.

For the second time in less than a month, a violent storm is set to pummel Switzerland from Thursday on.

Following in the footsteps of Joachim in mid-December, Andrea is the next storm to keep skiers away from the slopes on Thursday and Friday.

The first storm of the year will bring gusts of 80 to 110 km/h north of Lake Geneva and the Jura Plateau. In the Jura mountains and the Alps, these winds may exceed 130 km/h, said meteorological agency Meteosuisse in a statement.

The strongest gusts are expected in higher mountain areas, where winds could reach a peak speed of 180 km/h.

Steady rain in the morning will turn to heavy snowfall at altitudes varying from 800 to 1,300 metres, depending on the region.

Up to 60 centimetres of snow is expected in the Alps, with the avalanche risk level rising to 4 on Thursday night, said the Institute for the Study of Snow and Avalanches.

As a result, several ski areas will be closed, including Paccots in canton Fribourg, and Rochers de Naye in canton Vaud.

In German-speaking Switzerland, resorts such as Zermatt in the Valais, Davos-Klosters in Graubünden, and Engelberg in Oberwald, have already closed some tracks, their websites said.

Ice is also expected to form on the country’s roads at low altitudes from Thursday night to Friday morning.

The storm front is forecast to remain until Friday morning in western Switzerland and Saturday morning in the east. 

In mid-December, the storm dubbed Joachim brought severe destruction to Switzerland, as it pounded the country with gusts of 100 km/h in low-lying areas and up to 176 km/h in the mountains. Méteosuisse described it as one of the worst storms in the last ten years. 

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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.