Metéo France is astonishingly accurate with its forecasts, although sometimes the threatened rain or wind comes a day earlier or later than expected. This time it was spot on: the wonderful but overpowering heat, rising to 36 yesterday afternoon, was brought to a rude end by the storms predicted for today, and by this afternoon the teperature had plummeted to 18 degrees.
As I was driven back from Montpellier at lunch-time, my driver, Paul, pointed out the incredibly black clouds and rising wind as we approached le Vigan. And then we drove through the storm, which seemed to rush towards us: thunder, lightning, sheets of torrential rain, tornado-like winds, and trees bending over towards us.
I suggested to Paul that he could drop me off in le Vigan if he liked and I could be taken by someone else for the last stretch (his afternoon job is taking someone to a hospital in le Grau du Roi, virtually in the Camargue). But he battled on – until we came across a tree across the road. Chaos while a stream of cars attempted to do U turns in zero visibility, and then we took an alternative route, round the back of Bréau, where the narrow road threatened on occasions to become a river.
Heavy rain throughout the afternoon has made up for the three-month long, hot drought. Locals here still talk of “le 15 aout” as the turning point in the summer weather. It has come two days early this year.