Avalanches in the north, record heat in the south: Italy hit by extreme weather

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Avalanches in the north, record heat in the south: Italy hit by extreme weather
Sestriere, west of Turin, where the former Olympic Village was evacuated due to avalanche risk. Photo: Olivier Morin/AFP

While the north of Italy shivers under heavy snowfall, further south Italians are enjoying some of the highest seasonal temperatures on record.


Spring has come two months early to southern Italy, with unseasonably high temperatures recorded in Rome and Palermo.

Meanwhile the northern regions of Piedmont and Valle d’Aosta remain in the depths of winter – and on high alert for avalanches after more than two metres of snowfall in the past 48 hours.

The mercury hit 19.6 degrees C in Rome and 24.1 degrees in Palermo on Monday, according to the Epson Weather Centre, which said that such temperatures weren’t usually reached until late spring. 

At the other end of the thermometer, much of northern Italy is frozen after days of heavy snow and rain – as much as two metres in 12 hours in parts of Piedmont.

The avalanche alert has eased since it was raised to the maximum level in parts of the region on Monday. But thick, wet snow continues to pose a danger, with at least one avalanche reported overnight in the village of Sestriere, in the Alps west of Turin. An apartment block was evacuated but no one was hurt.


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One woman died on the way to hospital near Sestriere, however, after the ambulance she was in found itself stuck for around half an hour behind a collapsed tree. The woman, who had suffered a cerebral haemorrhage, was pronounced dead on arrival early on Tuesday morning.

The town also moved around 100 people out of the former Olympic Village used in the 2006 Winter Games, now a holiday resort. Snow slid into one hotel and got inside 30 rooms, Ansa reported.

Some 5,000 tourists remain stranded in the ski resort of Cervinia in neighbouring Valle d’Aosta, where the threat of avalanches has closed roads for the second time in a week. Ski slopes and schools were shut on Tuesday, La Stampa said.


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Workers are still working to clear access to Cogne, another of the region’s ski resorts, which was cut off on Monday by an avalanche that left up to eight metres of snow on the road. Several other villages in the area are also blocked off.

Precipitation is expected to lessen in the coming days, easing the danger of avalanches. 

Further south, the balmy weather is coming to an end too: forecasters say the warm air and southerly winds that led to the unseasonal highs will begin to pass from Tuesday afternoon. 


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