Ticino cities brace for more rain — and flooding

The canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland is bracing for further flooding after two weeks of rain with more precipitation forecast in the region for Saturday.

Ticino cities brace for more rain — and flooding
Photo: City of Locarno

On Thursday, residents got a break from the deluge that has inundated basements, closed roads and forced evacuations of medical patients in Locarno and surrounding areas.

The sun shone for the first time in three days but civil protection workers continued to prepare for more high water, the ATS news agency reported.

A team of 50 workers has installed temporary elevated walkways to allow pedestrians in Locarno to navigate flooded streets.

The city said that boats and rafts have also been available to help residents get around, while traffic has been diverted from affected roads.

In the past two weeks close to 500 millimetres of rain has fallen on Italian-speaking Locarno, MeteoNews reported.

In Robiei in the western part of Ticino 555mm of rain has been measured, while Lugano registered 399mm.

By comparison, 53mm of rain fell in Bern and 50mm in Zurich over the same period.

The level of Lake Maggiore, which traverses the Swiss-Italian border, is at its second-highest level in 150 years, according to reports.

Civil protection workers say they have used a technical program developed by a local university (SUSPI) that has allowed them to visualize the impact of precipitation on flooding, ATS said.

That allowed them to plan the evacuation and relocation of 80 patients from a Locarno medical clinic, 50 metres from the edge of lake Maggiore, earlier this week.

Close to 600 residents in Ticino have been impacted by flooding, while a landslide in a rural area west of Lugano last week swept a house down a hillside, killing a 31-year-old woman and her three-year-old daughter.

Rain has also played havoc south of the border in Italy.

On Wednesday, a 70-year-old man drowned in the southern part of Lake Maggiore at Ispra, after falling in the water while trying to secure his boat, local media reported.

At least four other people have died in northern Italy in incidents related to the latest rain storms, while 60 schools were closed in the Milan area, according to a report from AFP. 


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Climate crisis: Swiss lakes at lowest-ever August levels

Some of Switzerland's best-known lakes are at their lowest level ever for August after a dry year so far in 2022, the environment ministry said on Wednesday.

Climate crisis: Swiss lakes at lowest-ever August levels

Some of Switzerland’s best-known lakes are at their lowest level ever for August after a dry year so far in 2022, the environment ministry said on Wednesday.

At the same time, discharge levels on the Rhine, one of Europe’s major rivers which starts in the Swiss Alps, have never been so low in August since records began.

“There is a low water situation in Switzerland, especially on the central plateau and in the southern part of Ticino,” the country’s southernmost canton, said Michele Oberhansli, from the Federal Office for the Environment’s hydrology division.

READ ALSO: Water flown in by helicopter: How Switzerland has been hit by drought

“The reason for the existing situation is a precipitation deficit in the whole year of 2022, which affects the whole of Switzerland, as well as many other European countries,” she told AFP.

Soil moisture is down across the country and drought is affecting forests and agriculture, she said.

Lakes Constance, Lucerne, Lugano and Walen “are currently recording water levels that have never been so low in an August month since measurements began”, said Oberhansli.

Meanwhile Lakes Zug and Maggiore “continue to show values well below average”.

The shores of Lake Maggiore mark the lowest point in Switzerland, normally at 193 metres above sea level.

READ ALSO: MAP: The Swiss regions in danger of wildfires and the measures in place to avoid them

Except the lakes in the Jura region in the northwest and Lake Thun, the levels of all the other larger Swiss lakes are also below the long-term average.

Rivers down, glaciers melting

Meanwhile many Swiss rivers are recording readings that only occur once every two to 20 years.

“Discharge values on the Reuss and Rhine have never been so low since measurements began in August,” said Oberhansli.

The hydrologist said rain over the coming days should “slightly alleviate” the low water and drought levels, but would “not yet be sufficient to ease the overall situation”.

Following a dry winter, the summer heatwaves hitting Europe have been catastrophic for Switzerland’s Alpine glaciers, which have been melting at an accelerated rate.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: Runners take on Swiss glacier race despite melt

A layer of ice — 15 metres thick in 2012 — has covered the Tsanfleuron Pass between two glaciers since at least the Roman era.

But most of it has gone and the ice on the pass will have melted away completely by the end of September, a ski resort said last week.