Violent hailstorms swept through southeastern France on June 15 and 16, 2019, causing significant infrastructural and agricultural damage. One person was killed in the town of Taninges, Haute-Savoie department of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.
The storm brought winds in excess of 100 km/h (62 mph), heavy rain and large hail, causing widespread and, in many cases, catastrophic damage.
The epicenter of the sudden storm which struck Saturday afternoon, June 15, was at Romas-sur-Isere where streets quickly transformed into raging rivers.
Farmers reported hail the size of golf balls and up to tennis balls decimated their orchards and vineyards. In some cases, entire harvests were destroyed.
A farmer from La Roche-de-Glun in the Drome department, south of Lyon, told AFP his entire harvest (apricots, peaches and cherries) was ruined.
Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said the state would declare a natural emergency to trigger insurance payments and other help to farmers facing huge losses.
“It’s catastrophic, I’ve rarely seen scenes like this,” Guillaume said Sunday. “It’s unthinkable that farmers would be forced into bankruptcy because of this.”
A 51-year-old woman was killed in the town of Taninges, neighboring Haute-Savoie region, after a tree fell on a camper she was in.
Lieutenant-Colonel Herve Gabion of the fire brigade for the Drome department told AFP that weather episodes as violent as this are quite rare. “I’ve never seen one like it in this area.”
France to declare natural emergency after deadly storm
The French government is to declare a natural emergency for farming areas in the southeast blasted by a fierce storm at the weekend. A German tourist was one of those killed when her caravan was hit by a tree.
French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said a natural emergency would be declared following a severe storm that devastated harvests in the nation’s southeast at the weekend.
Nine departments were put on alert over the weekend and while the storms were brief, lasting only a few minutes, they were also very destructive, coming at the start of the fruit season. The Auvergne-Rhone-Alps region is known as the “orchard of France.”
“It’s catastrophic, I’ve rarely seen scenes like this,” Guillaume told BFM television. “It’s unthinkable that farmers would be forced into bankruptcy because of this.”
Hail the size of ping pong balls pelted farms, destroying crops and shattering car windshields and greenhouses.
“Pretty much my entire harvest is ruined,” said Gregory Chardon who grows apricots, peaches and cherries at his farm in La Roche-de-Glun in the Drome department, about an hour’s drive south of Lyon.
“The damage is enormous and widely spread — cereals, greenhouse and vegetable farms, and vineyards as well,” Chardon said.
In the neighboring village of Pont-de-L’Isere, Aurelien Esprit showed apricots littering the ground and battered apple trees at his orchards in a Facebook video.
“Unfortunately the season ended for us last night. I don’t think I’m going to make it this time,” he said.