Snow closes motorway and mountain pass roads

Snow closed a section of the A2 motorway and the Gotthard road tunnel in the heart of the Swiss Alps on Wednesday afternoon as crews worked to clear lanes for traffic.

Snow closes motorway and mountain pass roads

The section of road impacted was from Amsteg in the canton of Uri to the entrance of the tunnel as heavy snow followed a wind storm that passed through the Alps a day earlier, the SDA news agency reported.

In the wake of the storm, snow fell in northern parts of Switzerland at higher elevations, including the Jura Mountains and the Alps, while heavy rain hit the canton of Ticino and the southern parts of Graubünden and Valais.

Roads through several mountain passes were closed, some of them for the season.

Snow shut the Oberalp pass between Andermatt in the canton of Uri and the canton of Graubünden until next spring.

Roads through the Gotthard, Klausen, Furka, Susten, Nufenen, Grand Saint Bernard and Grimsel passes have also closed.

Snow falling at levels as low as 600 metres on Wednesday is expected to continue north of the Alps at altitudes down to 500 metres, MeteoSwiss, the national weather office, reported.

The precipitation follows hurricane-force winds in the Swiss Alps on Tuesday, measured up to 186 kilometres an hour at Titlis, the mountain resort in the canton of Obwalden.

The winds forced the closure of various mountain lifts and caused scattered damage, largely to the roofs of buildings.

A 67-year-old man was seriously injured when a gust of wind blew him off the corrugated roof of a garden shed hut in Sevelen in the canton of Saint Gallen on Tuesday, cantonal police reported.

He fell two and a half metres to the ground and was transported by a Rega emergency services helicopter to hospital, police said.

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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.