Wind storm sweeps through Swiss Alps

Hurricane-force winds swept through the Swiss Alps early on Tuesday registering as high as 187 kilometres per hour in the canton of Obwalden, weather services reported.

Wind storm sweeps through Swiss Alps
Titlis mountain lift — closed for maintenance. Photo: Switzerland Tourism

This wind speed was recorded at Titlis, a 3,238-metre mountain in the Uri Alps, Meteo Group and SRF Meteo said in news releases.

The high winds are due to a Foehn storm that began battering higher elevations late on Monday.

There were no reports of substantial damage.

Titlis is home to Europe’s highest suspension bridge, a 500-metre-long foot bridge at 3,041 metres above sea level, 500 metres above the ground.

Even if you wanted to experience the storm winds there you couldn’t do it because operators closed lifts on the mountain on Monday until November 14th for annual maintenance work.

Elsewhere, winds were clocked overnight at 167 km/h in Melchsee-Frutt, also in Obwalden, and at 165 km/h in Gütsch/Andermatt in the canton of Uri.

Gusts of up to 150 km/h were recorded in Brülisau, at an elevation of 922 metres, in the canton of Appenzell Innerhoden.

In French-speaking Switzerland, the mountain village of Les Diablerets in the Vaud Alps registered winds of 145 km/h, the ATS news agency reported.

The storm conditions are expected to peter out later Tuesday, while heavy precipitation is forecast south of the Alps and snow above the 1,600-metre level, the agency said.

The tempest brought to an end Indian summer conditions experienced in much of Switzerland over the weekend. 

SEE ALSO: Violent storms hit south-eastern France

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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.