In Saint-Aignan we had two strong thunderstorms during the night. The first one came through at about 11:00 p.m. It was spectacular, with bright lightning and loud thunder, along with a few minutes of heavy rain. It wasn't particularly scary, just exciting.
Then at about 4:00 a.m. I was awakened by a crack of sharp lightning close to the house, and an immediate thunder clap that literally rattled the roof tiles over our heads. We're still getting used to sleeping in the new space upstairs, right under the roof. I got up at 4:15 and went downstairs to make sure the dog wasn't too afraid. She won't come upstairs yet, so she was alone. And she was afraid, I could tell.
I lay down on the sofa for a while, with Callie on the floor right beside me. I kept my hand on her back to keep her calm as the thunder and lightning continued for the better part of an hour, gradually diminishing in intensity here as the storm moved off to the northeast. Then I dozed off.
When I woke up again at 6:45, I turned on Télématin to see the news and weather reports. The electricity promptly flickered off, causing the satellite decoder to reboot itself. That takes three or four minutes, but it had come back on before time came for the weather report. I was glad I hadn't yet turned my computer on.
At about 5:00 a.m., a car drove by, headlights beaming, headed down the hill toward the center of the village. That would surely have been our neighbor the mayor, going to work to make sure there was no damage from the violent storms. I hope there was no damage.
Yesterday the authorities declared an official « canicule », or heat wave, in three areas: Paris and its suburbs; Alsace including Strasbourg and the surrounding territories; and Lyon and the Rhône département where it's located. A canicule means that high temperatures are supposed to be 35ºC (95ºF) or above for three days or longer, with low temperatures around or above 20ºC/70ºF during the same period.
Remember, people don't have air conditioning in France. And they have a deep-rooted, long-held fear of getting ill from the nefarious effects of « courants d'air » — drafts. So they don't go in for cross-ventilation. They — especially older people — tend to close themselves up in their houses or apartments, with windows shut against the hot air and shutters closed to block out the hot sun. Then they suffocate, or get so hot that dehydration becomes nearly inevitable.
Remember also that a lot of older French people don't really believe in drinking tap water — the days when the local water was not safe to drink are not that distant. Or they just forget to drink water. The TV reports are constantly reminding people to "hydrate" themselves. In 2003, thousands of older people died from heat exhaustion when we experienced a canicule that lasted for many weeks.
Walt and I believe in opening the windows wide when it's hot. Our house is almost completely exposed to the hot afternoon sun, and the walls aren't very thick. We lower shutters to block out the sun, at least partially, but not such that no air can get in. It's about 70ºF this morning and very muggy. Now it just started raining again, so we have to close the house back up. At least the place has had a chance to cool down slightly.
Our neighbors across the street — he's 80 and she's about 75 — close their shutters up tight every night, even when it's very hot outside. Maybe their old house, with its thick stone walls, stays cooler than ours does. I hope so. This morning, their cleaning lady is here — I see her car — so I know that someone is checking up on them. They are in good health and very young and modern for their age, anyway.
This weather is supposed to stay with us for the next three or four days. We'll see. It's good for the garden, I think.