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Hottest Day in France, Ever

June 28th, 2019 · No Comments · Uncategorized

And we are living it. Not in the epicenter of “scary hot” but uncomfortably close to it.

“Friday will be the worst” was what we had heard for the whole of this preposterously hot week, and leave it to the weather guys to be right about bad news.

Heat records have been tumbling this afternoon and who is to say we won’t have one or two more checking in from a remote village here, an hour’s drive north of the Mediterranean Sea in the south of France?

The country’s latest unprecedented recording came via TV news station BFM, about an hour ago. That would be the 45.1 Celsius (113.2 Fahrenheit) at a little place named Villevieille about 70 miles from where we are hunkered down, with the windows shut and the fans running.

Only 15 or so minutes before the current record, a place named Carpentras, a bit east of Villevieille, had staked a hotness claim — 44.3 Celsius (111.7F) and that was, in fact, a record. But Carpentras’s suffering was not rewarded, once Villevieille (literally, “old town”) checked in with its 45.1C.

[Update: about an hour later, Villevieille’s grip on the record slipped, and it shifted to Gallargues-le-Montueux, closer to the Med but essentially in the same overcooked general area. The new number: 45.9 Celsius, or 114.6 Fahrenheit.]

The previous highest temperature in France was recorded in August of 2003, at 44.1C (111.4F), not far from where records are tumbling today, during the awful heat wave that led to the deaths of perhaps 70,000 people, many of them elderly.

France learned some lessons from that one. To wit: Check on old people who are living alone and without air-conditioning, making them particularly susceptible to heat stroke.

During this ugly stretch, which earlier in the week was worse in the north of the country, the authorities have rolled out plans drawn up after 2003 and ordered the cancellation of pretty much everything that goes on outside, aside from the Fifa Women’s World Cup match tonight, which begins at 9 p.m. in Paris, where the worst is over, for now. It was “only” 90F there at the turn of the hour, and kickoff is still some five hours away, when temps will be in the 80s.

France finds itself at risk, during stretches of heat more commonly associated with the Persian Gulf or India, because historically it has not been susceptible to temperature extremes. It was only a few days ago that the nearby “big” city of Montpellier listed, as its hottest day on record, a reading of 99.8F — not even into triple digits. Not in the recorded history of the place.

France has very little air-conditioning, even in the warmer south. Many French do not like AC, apparently because they believe it spreads illness — and perhaps it does in years when you run it only a couple of times.

The history of “hot but not really hot” made it difficult for some of us to believe that these towns south of Lyon could get this hot — they never had before.

We have been through hotter days, however — back in Abu Dhabi, where the record for high temperature is 120.6F (49.2C). The different between heat in France and heat in the Gulf is that the Gulfies are prepared for extreme temperatures, and nearly every building in the country is air-conditioned.

We probably can assume a role for climate change in the heat of 2019. Yeah.

The heat where we live is supposed to abate in the coming days, back closer to the typical summer highs in the mid-80s. But it is only June. Who knows how many more stretches of this are in store for the Summer of 2019?

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