September 17, 2023 will go down in French meteorological history. Across the country, lightning struck the ground 31,121 times according to Le Parisien. This data is simply historic: since 1997 (date of the first Météo-France records), storms have never been so vehement in France. The previous record is largely beaten: on September 26, 2021, meteorologists recorded “only” 26,650 impacts.
The most affected departments were, unsurprisingly, placed on orange alert by Météo-France. Haute-Vienne recorded the most lightning strikes with 2,713 strikes, followed by Cher and Lot-et-Garonne with 2,696 and 2,106 ground lightning strikes respectively. These impressive figures were subsequently confirmed by Keraunos, the French storm and tornado observatory.
This stormy episode of rare violence was illustrated, in addition to lightning, by torrential rain, hail and a few gusts of wind. The village of Ernée, in Mayenne, even recorded a tornado for around ten minutes, without anyone being injured, fortunately. On the other hand, many agricultural buildings gave way to the force of the wind.
Thunderstorms could continue over the next few days. From the Pyrenees to Switzerland, several departments saw lightning strike them on Monday September 18. The departments of Isère, Drôme and Ardèche were also still placed on orange alert until 6 p.m. that same day. According to Météo-France, the storm alert should be lifted across the country from Tuesday.