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Grim weather puts damper on holidays

Vicious cycle: the Swiss have recently been caught between heatwaves and thunderstorms Keystone

Heavy rain and unseasonably low temperatures have marred the beginning of the holiday period in many parts of Switzerland.

This content was published on July 10, 2007 - 16:07

While the mixed weather appears to have had no major impact on tourism, the authorities issued warnings as the levels of several lakes reached a critical point.

Several weeks of bad weather with violent thunderstorms and intermittently heavy rain have filled up many riverbeds and lakes, particularly in the region around the capital, Bern, as well as in southwestern Switzerland.

The authorities have called on people living near lakes to watch water levels carefully and evacuate their basements to limit damage to property.

On Monday regions in central and eastern Switzerland were also hit by heavy rain.

A drop in temperatures led to snow falling in the Alps above 1,800 metres at the beginning of the week. In lower-lying areas the mercury climbed to a maximum of 11 degrees Celsius on average.

However, experts have forecast a major improvement for the weekend with temperatures reaching more than 30 degrees. They expect the fair weather to continue for several days.

In April Switzerland recorded a heatwave followed by a period with heavy local thunderstorms. A freak storm in June caused damage worth hundreds of millions of francs.

Tourists and farmers

The hotel industry says the weather has had a limited impact on tourism so far.

Guests who booked their holidays well ahead were less likely to change plans than people who decided at the last minute, a spokeswoman for the Swiss hotel association said.

No detailed figures are available, but she said the number of foreign guests who booked in advance had risen by four per cent over the past year, while the number of overnight stays by Swiss tourists was stagnating.

But Swiss travel agencies have recorded a rush for last-minute offers in sunnier climes over the past week. School holidays began last weekend in many parts of the country.

For their part, farmers are concerned that the wet weather will lead to a poor harvest and difficulties organising work.

Wheat, cherry and rapeseed oil producers said the rain delayed or even destroyed the harvest, particularly in western and northern regions of the country.

The Swiss Farmers Association pointed out that many farmers had to invest in more machines to do a lot of work during a brief spell of dry weather.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Average temperatures north of the Alps hover around 10°C.

In the southern Ticino region bordering Italy temperatures are around 18°C.

About 12cm of fresh snow fell on the Glärnisch mountain in central Switzerland, 10cm on the Great St Bernard mountain pass in the southwest and 8cm on the Säntis mountain in eastern Switzerland.

Higher altitudes recorded nearly 20cm of snow.

Water levels of Lake Thun and Lake Biel were 30cm and 54cm respectively below the critical mark on Tuesday. They had dropped slightly over the past few days.

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