Most overseas visitors to the south west of France come in the summer months. It looked very different this weekend.After a pleasant and dry January, the rain returned during the week and, combined with mild temperatures and melting snow, put pressure on the waterways this weekend.
Friday night brought flooding to several departments and Saturday night it was our turn in the Gers.
There were over 200 call-outs to the fire brigade in the Pyrenées-Atlantiques department during the day, but, although we heard the orange alert, we didn't expect it to hit so quickly.
Our village is straddled by the Arros and the Adour.
At 6pm (the water level was at 2.3m) we went out to dinner (to the excellent Eléphant Thai in Riscle), noting as we passed through Tasque on the way home that their tennis courts were flooded. When we got home the field opposite our house had been filling up rapidly. By midnight the levels were at 3.75 m.
In real terms it meant that, only for the raised road in front of our house that acted like a dam, we would have been flooded. As it was many of the houses and businesses on our side of the river were badly affected.
During Sunday the water receded fairly quickly and we breathed a sigh of relief. But it has started raining again now (Sunday evening) and the department is on orange alert until Monday afternoon.
It's frightening how quickly the water rises and how little anyone can do. We watched the firemen standing powerless on the bridge last night as we stood in front of our house wondering what to bring upstairs and expecting to be woken in the middle of the night to the sound of water gushing through the house. It didn't happen. Another 20 cms and it would have been up to our eyeballs. Hoping tonight the levels don't rise again. And thinking of those who have been affected.