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Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms

With violent storms becoming increasingly common in Austria, here’s how to protect yourself (and your home) this summer.

Wild weather in Austria: How to protect yourself during summer storms
Storms are common in Austria during the summer, with some causing widespread damage. (Photo by Tanya Gorelova / Pexels)

Storms are a regular occurrence in Austria during the summer months, but the strength and frequency seems to be increasing.

Overnight on Tuesday, June 28th, both the Pöllinger and the Treffner rivers in Carinthia burst their banks causing widespread flooding, mudslides and damage across the region.

READ ALSO: Who to call and what to say in an emergency in Austria

A Tweet from Unwetter-Freaks said: “Bad pictures from #Arriach in #Kärnten , which was hit by several storm cells last night. According to ORF, the place is currently cut off from the outside world and cannot be reached by the emergency services.”

READ ALSO: 23 essential articles to help you navigate life in Austria

In July, storms in Carinthia and Tirol caused some €6 million in damages as crews struggle with clean-up work after the severe rains, Der Standard reported. In Vienna and surrounding regions, there were alerts for extreme weather as winds picked up speed and the rain also caused damages.

With the summer season far from over and the possibility of more wild weather in the coming months, here’s how to stay safe during storms in Austria.

FOR MEMBERS: When and where to avoid driving in Austria this summer

Check the weather report

It might sound obvious, but checking the weather forecast should be at the top of the list of summer storm preparations.

Unlike in the past, weather reports are now typically reliable, and apps like Bergfex and Accuweather are well-known for providing detailed forecasts and weather warnings.

However, long-range forecasts can change quickly, so if you’re planning a camping or hiking trip, be sure to check the weather between 24 and 48 hours before to avoid being caught out.

Additionally, the Österreichischen Unwetterzentrale (Austrian Severe Weather Centre) has regular updates about storms and weather forecasts for Austria and users can sign up for email and SMS notifications.

Stay indoors

According to the organisation, Die Helfer Wiens (The Helpers of Vienna) one of the biggest risks during a storm is being hit by a fallen tree or flying debris.

For this reason, they advise people (and pets) to stay indoors during a storm and close all windows and doors. 

If staying in a tent or campervan, it’s also a good idea to seek shelter in a building (if possible) until the storm has passed.

However, if you are outside during lightning, the Austrian Red Cross says the best approach is to crouch down into a ball to reduce the amount of contact you have with the floor.

READ MORE: How to keep your apartment cool in Austria this summer amid rising energy prices

Stay away from the cellar

Cellars and underground car parks can quickly become flooded during heavy rain – as seen in recent storms in Upper Austria and Carinthia, and last year during violent storms across Austria.

Flash flooding can happen quickly (the clue is in the name), so stay away from cellars and underground spaces during a storm and call the emergency services if you suspect a flood in your home.

Remove plants and furniture from balconies

Having plants and flowers on a balcony is a lovely way to brighten up an outside space, but they risk being damaged during a storm.

To safeguard your pots and lovingly-planted flora, move them inside – especially during a thunderstorm with strong wind gusts and lightning.

The same applies to any outdoor furniture that could be damaged by wind or hail, like cushions, decorative objects and sun umbrellas.

Park cars under shelter

Hail is one of the leading causes of dents to bodywork on cars and damage to windscreens, both of which can be costly to repair.

If hail is forecast during a storm, park a car in a garage or under shelter, if possible. 

If strong wind is expected, then avoid parking a car under trees as debris, or even the tree itself, could end up landing on the vehicle.

FOR MEMBERS: EXPLAINED: How Austria banned everyone from the forest for 123 years

Don’t go into the forest

Whether walking or driving, the best advice is to stay from the forest or areas with lots of trees during a storm.

While sheltering under a tree can protect from rain or hail, lightning or strong wind can bring down trees. This makes the forest a dangerous place to be in a storm.

But if you do find yourself in the unfortunate position of being in a forest when a thunderstorm hits, stay away from low branches and tree trunks and crouch down low. Place any walking sticks or metal poles away from you and stay away from metal fences.

Avoid risky activities

Certain outdoor activities are especially hazardous if there’s a lightning storm. 

Any activity in an open area or that puts you into contact with water or metal is strongly advised against. So that means fishing, swimming, boating, cycling and golfing are out until the storm is over. 

Keep torches and candles ready

Power cuts are common during storms, so keep a stock of candles and torches ready in case you end up without electricity for several hours.

It’s also a good idea to have a portable USB charger to make sure your phone doesn’t run out of battery during an emergency.

Who to call in an emergency

These are the numbers to call if you need help from the Austrian emergency services during a storm.

122 – fire service (Feuerwehr).

133 – police (Polizei).

144 – ambulance (Krankenwagen or Rettungswagen).

120 – ÖAMTC emergency breakdown service.

123 – ARBÖ emergency breakdown service.

140 – mountain rescue.

Finally, 112 is the single European emergency number, whose operators will direct you to the relevant services. This number can even be called on a locked mobile phone without needing the pin.

Find out more with The Local’s guide on who to call and what to say in an emergency.

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For members

CLIMATE CRISIS

IN PICTURES: How drought and extreme heat are affecting Austria

Europe has been hit by the worst drought in centuries and Austria has felt the effects of extreme heat and dry days. Here are the pictures that showcase the impact of drought on the Alpine nation.

IN PICTURES: How drought and extreme heat are affecting Austria

Temperatures have been high across Austria this summer and rainfall have been low. While many have welcomed the long, hot days, the heat has negatively affected Austria’s water reserves.

The hot and dry spring and summer mean communities in Vorarlberg and Upper Austria are running out of water.

In Langen near Bregenz, the drinking water tanks are empty and the municipality is therefore appealing to the population to only use water for personal hygiene and as drinking water for people and animals.

In Traunkirchen in Upper Austria, the population is also being called on to water their gardens with rainwater to save water due to shortages.

In July, the popular holiday location of Lake Neusiedl in Burgenland reached its lowest levels in almost 20 years. And as the lake is mainly fed by rainwater, it takes a long time for it to recover water levels after a drought.

READ ALSO: Austria and Hungary fight nature to stop lake vanishing

Austrian and Hungarian authorities were working to supply water to the lake, which is very important to both countries as a tourist destination and a food production region.

A man stands in front of a water level indicator in front of the marina in Neusiedl am See, Burgenland on June 5, 2022.(Photo by Alex HALADA / AFP)

As lake temperatures rise, Austria also needs to cope with the death of hundreds of fish. For example, when Zicksee lake dried out in Burgenland, workers were called to clear the dead fish in St Andrae am Zicksee.

Dead fish are pictured at the Zicksee lake in St. Andrae am Zicksee in Burgenland, Austria on July 20, 2022. (Photo by Alex HALADA / AFP)

Similarly, forests in Lower Austria (including the Vienna Woods) are being hit by dry weather conditions due to low groundwater levels.

The record-breaking drought even resulted in forest fires in parts of the Alps during the past month, despite snow still coating the mountains.

READ ALSO: Smoking cigarettes in Austrian forests could cost you €7,270

This follows several years of little snow and rainfall in autumn and winter in the region, and forest managers are now debating the best course of action to tackle the problem.

Changes are also taking place in the Alps, with temperatures rising by nearly two degrees Celsius in the past 120 years — almost double the global average, according to the International Commission for the Protection of the Alps (CIPRA).

READ ALSO: Austrian scientists race to reveal melting glaciers’ secrets

In Tyrol, the Jamtal glacier has been losing about one metre (three feet) from its surface annually, but it has already lost more than a metre so far this year.

The Jamtal glacier has been losing about one metre (three feet) from its surface annually, but this year it has already lost more than a metre. (Photo by KERSTIN JOENSSON / AFP)

Even in the capital Vienna the drought and extreme heat are causing problems. For horses, temperatures above 35C can cause severe discomfort and force riders to halt the traditional (and very touristic) tours of the so-called fiaker in the city’s first district.

fiaker horse vienna austria summer weather heat

Fiaker horses are doused with water on a summer day in Vienna, Austria.(Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

For people, the heat is dangerous and the capital provides its residents and visitors with several places where they can cool off – from public pools to “cooling centres”.

READ ALSO: Vienna’s free ‘cooling centre’ lets you avoid Austria’s stifling heat

Vienna cooling centre Austria heatwave

There are several places to cool off from the extreme heat in Vienna, including a dedicate “cooling centre” in the 21st district (Amanda Previdelli / The Local)
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