Rain storms cost 300 million francs a year

Bad weather cost Switzerland almost 14 billion francs over the past 42 years — an average of around 300 million francs a year, according to a new report.

Rain storms cost 300 million francs a year
Photo: Commune de St. Gingolph/Facebook

The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WLS) said weather events — such as the heavy rain that caused extensive flooding in parts of Western Switzerland last week — cost the country 13.7 billion francs ($14.7 billion) between 1972 and 2014.

The figures from WLS, reported on Sunday by state broadcaster RTS, emerged as the Neuchâtel, Morat and Biel lakes dropped on the weekend from critical levels after a week of higher than normal rainfall.

The previous weekend communities such as Saint Gingolph in the canton of Valais sustained property damage after a river flooded its banks, while landslides in the canton and in Vaud blocked roads and rail lines.

Of the period studied, 2005 marked the worst year for bad weather, with heavy precipitation over three days in August that year triggering flooding, landslides and mudslides that caused 2.5 billion francs in damages.

Total damages for the year amounted to 3.1 billion francs.

WLS said the canton of Bern was the worst affected, sustaining damages totalling 3.03 billion francs, ahead of Ticino (1.88 billion francs) and Valais (1.69 billion francs).

The figures quoted in the report do not include damage cause by avalanches, earthquake tremors, lightning, hail and storms.

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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.