Violent storms end Swiss heatwave

Switzerland was battered by heavy storms on Saturday and Sunday which caused millions of francs worth of damage.

Violent storms end Swiss heatwave
File photo: lightsource/Depositphotos
The cantons of Bern and Aargau were particularly affected on Saturday as hail and heavy rain put an end to temperatures that had soared as high as 34 degrees in many parts of the country. 
The storms hit particularly badly in Zofingen in the canton of Aargau, causing severe flooding and landslides and cutting off electricity to many households.
Local fire chief Peter Ruch told the press he had never seen such a situation in his 45 years of service. 
More than 450 rescue workers were mobilized as the authorities received 491 calls from the public reporting flooded cellars, underpasses and car parks, the city said in a statement.
Two railway lines at Zofingen station were under water on Saturday night, while the station car park was also flooded, damaging around 100 cars.  
The A1 motorway around Oftringen, just outside Zofingen, was closed in both directions for several hours due to flooding. 
Two people were taken to hospital and two others evacuated from their homes but no one lost their life, according to news agencies.
While the exact cost of the damage is yet to be confirmed, a local councillor told the press she estimated the figure to reach 100 million francs.
Though Zofingen was particularly affected, the storms also battered other parts of Switzerland, particularly the cantons of Bern, Solothurn and Jura.
Large hail stones pummelled the city of Biel/Bienne, while in Wynau in the canton of Bern some 68 l/m2 of rain fell on Saturday night, almost half of that in the space of 20 minutes.  
Storms continued on Sunday in the Jura, across Lake Geneva and over Zurich. 

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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.