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Stormy May brings record lightning to France

media The Eiffel Tower and Paris's La Défense business district under heavy clouds at sunset on Wednesday AFP

France has has an electrically charged month of May, with the highest number of lightning flashes for the time of year since records began. Storms have wreaked vineyards, flooded towns and damaged cars and homes this month.

Mainland France has been hit by 155,000 lightning flashes since the beginning of May, the highest number for the month since records began in 2000.

The previous record was 84,000 in May 2009.

The storms that have drenched the French would not be exceptional in August, weather watchers say, but they have arrived exceptionally early this year, due to a combination of humidity and low-lying hot air with cold air above it.

Lightning over the Eiffel Tower on 28 May

And they have caused damage to crops and property:

  • 7,100 hectares of vines - five percent of the vineyards - were hit by storms in Bordeaux;

  • 1,800 hectares of vines were damaged by hail in Champagne;

  • The town of Epinal, in the Champagne region, asked the government to declare a state of natural catastrophe because of heavy flooding;

  • Twelve people were taken to safety in the south-western town of Condom;

  • Cars and house roofs were damaged by hail in Nozeroy, in the Jura, eastern France;

  • A presentation of new security measures at Paris's Eiffel Tower was cancelled because of the weather.

This spring has been exceptional in Europe because the hot weather has been in the north, meaning, for example, that the south-western French city of Toulouse was cooler than Oslo, forecaster Patrick Galois told the AFP news agency.

And, after a brief period of calm Friday and Saturday, the storms are expected to return to France on Sunday and Monday.

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