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High winds force closure of ski resorts

Gale-force winds from the south have swept over the Swiss Alps on Sunday, bringing unseasonably mild temperatures to mountain valleys.

According to the private Meteomedia weather service, wind speeds reached a record 252km/h on the Lauberhorn, a peak above the ski resorts of Grindelwald and Wengen.

The official Swiss weather service, MeteoSwiss, measured top winds of 145km/h in other parts of the Alps, which was enough to force resorts to close many of their ski lifts.

The southern "föhn" wind also brought warm temperatures with it. In parts of central and eastern Switzerland as well as canton Valais, the mercury rose above 12 degrees Celsius.

In other places nearby, temperatures still hovered around the freezing mark.

"That is typical of föhn weather," a meteorologist with MeteoSwiss said. "The dividing line can be thin as a razor and lead to differences in temperature of ten degrees within a few hundred metres."

Also on Sunday, the weather service of Swiss television reported that temperatures in the country in 2008 were one degree above the long-term average.

That has been the trend since 2000, the television said. It was also a year of stormy weather, with strong föhn winds blowing over the Alps particularly in March.

The southern canton of Ticino was affected by the greatest amount of rainfall to hit the region in more than 30 years, which led to flooding in July.


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