France has been experiencing record high temperatures thanks to a month-long “canicule” (or heatwave). Temperatures are so high that Méteo-France, the national weather service, put out a heat advisory warning that began with the line: “EVERY ONE OF US IS THREATENED, EVEN PEOPLE IN GOOD HEALTH” (capital letters are theirs).
Records are being broken all over the country, including on Thursday night at the Eiffel Tower, which was 26.8°C (80.24°F), surpassing the previous 2006 record by more than 1°C. At 5am on Friday, it was 24.6°C (76.28°F) in Paris. The day’s high was 97°F.
Temperatures have been unseasonably warm throughout the country since the end of June, particularly to the north where it’s been 2 – 4°C above the seasonal norm. Méteo-France reported, “On average all over France during the course of the past month, the average temperature has been 2.4°C higher than normal. July 2018 thus ranks third among the hottest months of July since 1900, behind July 2006 (+3.6°C) and July 1983 (+2.6°C).”
Twenty-five departments have been placed on orange heatwave alert for Friday through the weekend, with temperatures set to reach between 35°C (95°F) and 38°C (100.4°F): Aisne (02), Ardèche (07), Cher (18), Côte-d’Or (21), Drôme (26), Eure (27), Eure-et-Loir (28), Loir-et-Cher (41), Loiret (45), Marne (51), Nord (59), Oise (60), Pas-de-Calais (62), Rhône (69), Saône-et-Loire (71), Paris and the surrounding area (75-92-93-94), Seine-Maritime (76), Seine-et-Marne (77), Yvelines (78), Somme (80), Essonne (91) and Val-d’Oise (95).
Paris takes heatwaves seriously, especially after a 2003 heatwave caused thousands of death across France. According to CityLab, with Paris’ heat alert on orange (level three of four), “8,000 people deemed vulnerable to extreme heat will be contacted by authorities and supervised by a heat watch team if found to be under stress.”
Méteo-France expects the worst of the heatwave, along with the orange alerts, to end Sunday, July 29 at 7am at the soonest. Friday, July 27 was expected to be the last dangerously hot day before the city begins to cool off in the afternoon and have slightly cooler weather arrive this weekend.
The temperature wasn’t the only thing starting to fall on Friday though. Not only did France experience extreme heat, they also had rain. While rain might seem refreshing on a hot day, it was far from a gentle downpour: French citizens faced “violent” storms and hail.
The hail, or “grêle,” pelted down on parts of the country starting mid-day Friday. (In the Tweet above, the red triangles represent storm clouds forming.) With such high temperatures, the hail melted fairly quickly, causing streets and sidewalks to flood.
We can all agree that massive hail isn’t fun, but when it comes to the high temperatures, France and United States may not agree on the panic surrounding this canicule. Waking up at 5am on Friday in 76.28°F weather in Paris doesn’t seem so bad to a New Yorker who, at 5am on Friday, woke to 77°F, or a Washingtonian who awoke to 76°F, or a New Orleanian who awoke to 84°F, or a Phoenician who awoke to 93°F.
But as Forbes contributor Dennis Mersereau explains, “Extreme temperatures are relative to what you’re used to and what you can handle.” He points out, “Many homes in western Europe lack air conditioning due to age, climate, and even cultural differences. The lack of air conditioning in Europe isn’t a problem most of the time, but it can become a serious problem during a heat wave.”
Méteo-France’s heat advisory warning (besides saying “EVERY ONE OF US IS THREATENED, EVEN PEOPLE IN GOOD HEALTH”) had some simple instructions for residents to protect themselves from the heat: “VENTILATE AT NIGHT, USE FAN AND/OR AIR CONDITIONING IF AVAILABLE. OTHERWISE TRY TO GO TO A COOL OR AIR-CONDITIONED PLACE TWO TO THREE HOURS PER DAY … WET YOUR BODY SEVERAL TIMES A DAY WITH A MIST, A WASHCLOTH, OR BY TAKING SHOWERS OR BATHS … DRINK A LOT OF WATER … DO NOT GO OUT AT THE HOTTEST HOURS (11H-21H) … WEAR A HAT AND LIGHT CLOTHING. LIMIT YOUR PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES.”
Of course, Parisians are taking the advice of Méteo-France very seriously… some more than others. No doubt they know that just like the snow this February — which they were near equally panicked about — passed, the heat will pass as well.