Violent storms to break heatwave

Austria’s heatwave is forecast to reach its peak on Tuesday, with temperatures soaring to 37C - but it will be followed by heavy rain, hail and thunderstorms.

Violent storms to break heatwave
Photo: Smial/Wikimedia

The eastern half of Austria will have the hottest temperatures, between 30 and 37C, but a cold front of Wednesday will see things cooling down to 29C – with rain showers and storms forecast for most of the country. The sunshine returns on Thursday and Friday, but temperatures will have cooled to a comfortable 26C.

Austria’s weather forecaster, the ZAMG, has warned people to avoid spending time at lakes on Wednesday as strong winds and lightning could be dangerous for those close to the water.

“In Salzburg and Upper Austria we will be issuing warnings as soon as we see indications of gusts of more than 60km per hour. At that point storm warning lights will be switched on at affected lakes. This is a signal that anyone on the lake, such as swimmers, boaters and water sport enthusiasts, must immediately get to shore,” Alexander Ohms from the ZAMG Salzburg said.

He added that a fast and efficient warning system was necessary as thunderstorms are hard to predict in hot weather, and often the ZAMG only has 30 to 60 minutes advance notice of a storm.

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No work for Vienna’s fiaker horses during heatwaves

The Austrian parliament is set to pass a new law making it illegal for fiaker carriage horses to work in temperatures of 35C and above.

No work for Vienna’s fiaker horses during heatwaves
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

The two-horse carriages are a popular and romantic way for tourists to explore central Vienna, especially during the summer months, and are as recognisably Viennese as the Giant Ferris Wheel in the Prater.

Lawmakers are set to amend the fiaker carriage law on Thursday, so that it places a greater emphasis on protecting the horses. Animal welfare councillor Ulli Sima (SPÖ) and environment spokesperson for the Greens Rüdiger Maresch said that it will ensure that no horse is made to work when the thermometer hits 35C.

Other measures which are intended to protect the horse’s welfare are also being introduced and include finishing an hour earlier (previously working hours for fiaker horses were from 10am to 9pm), having every other day off, and regular health and fitness check-ups to ensure the animals are fit enough to work.

Fiaker drivers must also be able to prove that their horses have been correctly trained and have the right temperament to be a working horse.

Last July, Salzburg's own Fiaker drivers suspended work for their horses when temperatures reached 35 degrees C (95 degrees F.)

The Vienna Tierschutzverein (animal welfare society) has praised the amendment, although fiaker drivers say that their business will suffer massively as a result of the stricter rules.  

“For years, animal rights activists have been campaigning by spreading pseudo-scientific falsehoods against fiaker entrepreneurs. In this way they are discrediting an entire business sector which has been active in the city for hundreds of years, has a lot of experience with horses, and has significantly contributed to a positive worldview of Vienna,” says Martina Michelfeit, spokeswoman for fiaker drivers in the Vienna Economic Chamber.