Weather: Most of Italy placed on alert over intense heat on Wednesday

Italy’s health ministry put 19 of Italy's 27 biggest cities, including Rome, Florence, Naples and Venice, on red alert on Wednesday as an intense heatwave continues.

Weather: Most of Italy placed on alert over intense heat on Wednesday
A fire and rescue helicopter prepares to drop water on a wildfire outside Rome on June 27th, 2022. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Health authorities issued a red alert for two-thirds of the country on Wednesday as the prolonged heatwave sweeping Italy pushes temperatures well above average for the end of June.

The cities and provinces of Ancona, Bologna, Bari, Cagliari, Catania, Campobasso, Civitavecchia, Florence, Frosinone, Latina, Messina,, Naples, Venice, Palermo, Perugia, Pescara, Rieti, Reggio Calabria, Rome and Viterbo were warned to expect conditions that could be harmful to health under the highest alert level.

By Thursday, every part of Italy is under either a red or amber heat alert, except for the northern provinces of Turin, Genoa and Bolzano.

Red warnings indicate emergency conditions with possible negative effects on everyone’s health, while amber warns the heat may pose a health risk, particularly to the elderly, children and those with chronic illnesses.

Peaks of 40C were recorded on Tuesday, when 12 areas were already on red alert and many others on a lower-level amber alert due to the intense heat.

Italy’s heatwave warnings for Tuesday, June 28th. Source: Italian health ministry

Meanwhile, the northern Italian regions of Emilia Romagna, Liguria, Lombardy, Piedmont, Tuscany, Trentino Alto Adige, Val d’Aosta and Veneto are braced for rain and thunderstorms between Tuesday and Wednesday.

The current heatwave, the latest in a series to have already hit Italy this year, has worsened wildfires and drought hitting many parts of the country after months of low rainfall and an unusually dry winter.

READ ALSO: Italian wildfires ‘three times worse’ than average as heatwave continues

The Po, Italy’s longest river, was up to 80 percent lower than usual on Monday according to Fabrizio Curcio, head of the civil protection department.

The department hasn’t ruled out the necessity of water rationing measures during the day, with restrictions on water use already in place in many towns in drought-hit areas.

Several regions have asked to be granted a ‘state of emergency’ under the government’s much-anticipated decreto siccità (drought bill), which is expected to be announced by the end of this week.

Experts have repeatedly warned that intense droughts and longer, earlier heatwaves are among the consequences of climate change.

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Storm warnings in Italy as heatwave set to break on Monday

More storms were forecast in northern Italy on Monday, while much of the south continued to sizzle in temperatures of around 38 degrees.

Storm warnings in Italy as heatwave set to break on Monday

Italy’s civil protection authority on Monday issued severe weather warnings for many parts of the country as the intense heatwave began to recede.

The highest-level red and amber alert warnings were issued for north-western parts of the country, which had already seen a drop in temperatures over the weekend.

The intense late-August heatwave will be pushed back gradually as a cold front moves down from northern Europe early this week, the civil protection department said.

It warned of rainstorms as temperatures begin to fall across the north and centre of the country, with Rome under a lower-level yellow alert on Monday.

Meanwhile in the south temperatures were set to remain in the high 30s on Monday, with the intense heat and humidity expected to break later on Monday evening or Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Italy records 11 ‘extreme weather events’ per day in 2023

Weather conditions were expected to be calmer along the eastern coast of the country, where few alerts were in place.

A map of the weather warnings issued by the civil protection department illustrated the divide, showing red and amber weather alerts in the northwestern Lombardy region, and amber alerts in Trentino Alto Adige, and parts of Liguria, Tuscany, and Veneto, where storms and heavy rain were forecast.

Northern Lombardy’s Valchiavenna area in particular was on high alert for flood risk, the department said.

A yellow weather alert was in place for parts of Abruzzo, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Molise, Piedmont, Sardinia, Tuscany, and Umbria, where rain and unsettled conditions were expected in the coming days.

While temperatures in the south were forecast to drop by up to seven or eight degrees in the coming days, they were expected to remain in the high 20s or low 30s in many areas.

Authorities were on alert for severe storms and flooding in the north of the country and wildfires in the south after extreme weather during a previous heatwave in July left at least seven people dead.

‘Extreme weather events’ including hailstorms, tornadoes, floods, wildfires and storms have been a common occurrence in Italy this year, killing dozens of people and causing serious damage to farmland and property.