Taking a break from the series of posts about the journey to get over to France, we wanted to share entries in what was an eventful week here on the south coast for us.
The first is to share our experience of the recent polar vortex that hit Europe in the final two days of February.
It seemed that France and the UK were hit with significant snow fall. And we were not immune to the snow, despite sitting right on the Mediterranean sea!
We don’t spend a lot of time looking at long range weather. In fact we barely look at the weather forecast at all. So often we get caught in storms or winds and find ourselves not having prepared or dressed appropriately. The first we knew that a polar vortex was on its way was the Saturday before the snow came. We were enjoying temperatures of 19 degrees in February and unbroken sunshine. We texted my brother and sister-in-law, who are due to come stay with us at the end of March, saying we hope it stays like this for their visit (that was the guise of the text, we were in actual fact gloating about the nice weather). My brother responded immediately saying that there was some strange atmospheric poop (he didn’t use the word poop…use your imagination) heading our way so he wouldn’t bank on it staying this warm.
“Billiards”, I said (although I didn’t use the word billiards – use your imagination) while analysing the weather forecast for the week ahead. “We live in the south of France. We’re by the sea. The temperature might drop a bit but we’re nearly in March. We won’t see any snow.”
In fairness, the weather forecasts initially agreed with me. But as we got closer to the vortex hitting, little snow clouds started to appear on my phone’s weather forecast app. And on google weather. And on the BBC. Still I refused to believe we’d see anything.
Monday night we got a few wisps. The clouds rolled over, and you could tell “it was trying” but nothing. So I went to bed thinking that would be the end of it. I actually got out of bed at 7am Tuesday morning, and the same. Nothing was falling but the clouds were there. I took the dog for a walk and as I was out it started. The snow came, and it did not let up for the rest of the day.
It was very surreal to be where we are, heading into March and watching the ground get covered by snow. It was exciting, heading to the beach and watching in amazement as the sand disappeared under a white sheet. It didn’t just amaze us though, as there were many people out on the beach, each with the same look of bewilderment in their eyes that this could be happening in Palavas-Les-Flots. Some people even decided to show off their wealth. Those that can afford skis were zipping around the town wearing their ski suits (and rather stupid smiles too).
The snow stopped at about 8pm on Tuesday, turning to random intervals of sleet. We had an Indochine concert on Friday to look forward to and I joked that it could be snowed off. We went to bed thinking that would be the end of it.
We woke on Wednesday to another 15cm of snow.
I think it was at this point that people in the community started to worry. It was still coming down and snowed throughout the day until 4pm when again the sleet came. Nobody could get to work, and we were watching the news as Montpellier had come to a standstill. Motorways on the outskirts of the city were bumper to bumper, and nobody could move. The tram network, usually reliable went off service on Tuesday and didn’t come back into service until Friday afternoon!
The sleet continued through the night and into Thursday morning. The snow still laid on the ground but it was starting to get slushy underfoot. The wind was also starting to pick up, and the sea was coming further and further inland. Properties close to the beach started to flood, a combination of the sea coming over into their houses and the snow melting quickly. The thaw came quickly and our garage started to flood (below our flat) with the water quickly becoming ankle deep. With all this going on, we learned that the Indochine concert scheduled for the following day had been postponed as the team couldn’t get there to set up and there was no guarantee public transport wouldn’t be running on the Friday. The concert was pushed back to Saturday evening.
The wind got worse throughout the day, with red weather warnings in place highlighting the flood risks to our little town (we even made the news). The wind got up to 80mph and with the sleet turning to rain, the snow thaw and encroaching sea meant our town had to declare a state of emergency. The mayor oversaw emergency services battling throughout the night to ensure that the town hall didn’t flood and fire engines patrolling the streets and pumping water away throughout the night when the need arose. The streetlights on the street all went off at 9pm due to the winds and it was like an Apocalypse scene outside. The front door was rattling in the wind, and then the rain started. We ended up putting towels at the bottom of the door just in case water started to get under. We went to sleep worrying if we would be wading to the kitchen for breakfast the next morning.
But then as quick as it all started, it stopped again. It feels like I dreamt it, but we woke on Friday to the news that the wind had moved north at 6am (the mayor has a twitter account) and that the emergency was over. A few of the nearby lakes had spilled over onto roads, a few boats had floated away from the canal into the sea and a restaurant had a roof collapse with nobody inside, but other than that everyone was safe. The sun came out first thing and by midday the snow had gone. Furthermore, the temperature had risen from -1 on Thursday morning to 15 degrees on Friday. The most dramatic swing in temperature I have ever experienced in 24 hours. And if you don’t believe the words I am writing, below is a picture of the same road 24 hours apart.
It really was a bonkers week of weather.