Hailstorm Causes Train Crash in France

Hail Derail

A strong hailstorm in southern France caused a train to derail in Lunel, between Nimes and Montepellier. The double-decker train was traveling at 140 kmh when it struck a tree that fell onto the tracks due to the storm around 3:45pm local time.  Montpellier

The above image, provided by our radar alternative shows that 51-64mm of precipitation fell on Wednesday, 17 August just northeast of Montpellier. Passengers on-board at the time of the accident reported ping-pong ball-sized hail was falling at the time of the accident.  

In-Cloud Lightning Provides Warning

During a 12-hour time period surrounding the incident, our lightning network detected 16,752 strikes in and around southern France. This high frequency of lightning was predominantly in-cloud lightning strikes (13967 strikes). In-cloud strikes, represented by the purple bolts in the below video, tend to make up approximately 80% of all lightning strikes. While these lightning strikes rarely threaten human safety, they serve as a warning for other dangerous weather conditions. A high frequency of in-cloud lightning often is a precursor to deadly cloud-to-ground strikes, microbursts and hailstorms. 

An advantage of monitoring in-cloud lightning is the ability to better predict these dangerous conditions. The purple polygons in the video above represent Earth Networks Dangerous Thunderstorm Alerts. High frequencies of in-cloud lightning generate these alerts to warn of extremely strong storms moving through a region. During this hailstorm, Earth Networks issued seven dangerous thunderstorm alerts in southern France, five of which were directly in the area of the crash. 
Train DTA

Train Wreck Aftermath

The bulk of the damage was in the train’s front carriage. The crash injured 60 people total; eight severely. One passenger was even thrown from the train on impact. Since the site of the crash was extremely difficult for rescuers to reach, that critically injured passenger was airlifted to a nearby hospital. Rail services in both directions were suspended following the crash. 

france treePhoto: Radio France – Natural Aubert