The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Avalanche and flood risk in the south of Switzerland

Updated at 31 Mar 2024 5:10 pm

Heavy rainfall in the south of Switzerland increased the risk of avalanches and flooding on Sunday. There was a high risk of avalanches in several regions. In addition, several roads had to be closed due to the precipitation.

The WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF raised the avalanche warning level in several regions to the second-highest level on Monday, to warning level 4 for major danger. This is only issued on a few days a year.

The danger applied to the main Alpine ridge from Arolla TI to the Ofen Pass, the Visp valleys, the Aletsch region, northern and central Ticino and the Upper Engadine. In this very critical situation, spontaneous and often very large avalanches are likely. Avalanches could easily be triggered on many steep slopes.

The reason for the high avalanche risk was the heavy precipitation of the last few days. According to MeteoSwiss, the snow cover has grown by up to 120 centimetres in some regions since Friday. The federal weather service expected even more fresh snow by Monday morning.

Level rise

At lower altitudes, the precipitation fell as rain. In Ticino, the level of Lake Maggiore rose by 20 centimetres as a result. The MeteoSwiss weather service predicted a moderate risk of flooding over the course of Monday.

Between Friday and Sunday, over 100 millimetres of rain fell in the higher regions of Ticino and on the Simplon Pass, as reported by MeteoSwiss on Sunday. The Robiei TI measuring station at almost 1900 meters above sea level recorded the most precipitation, a full 115 millimetres between 00:00 on 29 March and 07:00 on Sunday. In Simplon-Dorf VS it was 103 millimetres. Airolo TI and Locarno TI also recorded a lot of rain, with 82 and 62 millimetres respectively.

Closed roads

The road over the Simplon Pass from Valais to Italy remained closed on Sunday due to the risk of avalanches. In Graubünden, the authorities closed the road into the Calanca Valley due to the heavy rainfall combined with heavy snowmelt. This was for safety reasons, as the authorities announced. As a result, individual villages with a total of several hundred inhabitants were temporarily cut off.

Car transport on the Furka between Realp UR and Oberwald VS was also suspended on Sunday evening, as the company announced. The reason for this was that the road from Hospental UR to Realp was closed on Sunday evening due to the risk of avalanches. In Valais, the main road between Visp and the Saas Valley vacation region remained closed due to the risk of landslides. This was the case until at least Monday morning, according to Saastal Tourism.

The Bernina line of the Rhaetian Railway between Pontresina GR and Poschiavo GR was also closed on Sunday evening for safety reasons, as the railroad company announced. The closure was in place from 8.30 pm. As the road was also closed at the same time, no replacement buses could be used.

Föhn storm rages on

A Föhn storm has also been raging in Switzerland since Friday. According to SRF Meteo, it peaked at 190 kilometers per hour on the Gütsch above Andermatt UR on the first day.

There were gale-force gusts on the mountains again on Sunday. Gusts of up to 115 kilometers per hour were again measured on the Gütsch at midday. MeteoSwiss expected the Föhn storm to dissipate on Monday morning.

©Keystone/SDA

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