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WEATHER

Germany on alert for heavy thunderstorms

Many parts of Germany were on alert on Friday as a deluge of rain, hail and storms were forecast.

Flooding in Hamburg on Thursday.
Flooding in Hamburg on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Bockwoldt

The German Weather Service (DWD) issued an orange level-three storm warning across a large part of the country on Friday. 

Forecasters said isolated thunderstorms were expected early in the day, mainly affecting a strip from the Mosel and Main rivers to the Erzgebirge region.

From noon, the situation was set to get worse.

The DWD predicted “heavy thunderstorms spreading to NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) and Rhineland-Palatinate with increased risk of severe weather”.

Forecasters said “extremely heavy rainfall of around 40 litres per square metre” was expected in a short time in some areas as well as “large hailstones of up to five centimetres and gale-force winds with speeds of between 100 and 130 kilometres per hour”.

The German Weather Service (DWD) storm warnings on Friday morning.

The German Weather Service (DWD) storm warnings on Friday morning. Screenshot: German Weather Service

The DWD said isolated tornadoes were not being ruled out.

On Friday afternoon, the thunderstorms were set to move further eastwards, and in the evening there could also be severe storms in the south of the country with the potential for heavy rain and hail.

Temperatures on Friday in Germany will range between 20C at the coast, up to 27C in the centre and a very muggy 34C on the Upper Rhine.

A storm in Stuttgart.

A storm in Stuttgart. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Andreas Rosar Fotoagentur-Stuttgart

Storms in western Germany

Heavy thunderstorms moved across western Germany on Thursday, but the damage was less severe than feared.

READ ALSO: Weather – Germany braces for ‘extreme storms’

However, there was disruption to travel, including on train services from Germany to the Netherlands. Late in the evening, Deutsche Bahn reported that international long-distance trains between Amsterdam, Cologne and Frankfurt were running again without restrictions.

On the line between Cologne and Wuppertal, delays and cancellations were also expected on Friday. Long-distance lines were also affected, Deutsche Bahn said. 

There was also heavy rainfall. In Hamburg, a flooded underground car park had to be pumped out by emergency services. 

Meanwhile, a lightning strike sparked a roof fire in Zellingen near Würzburg. The family was able to leave their home and nobody was injured.

Flood alerts

The North Rhine-Westphalia State Office for Nature and the Environment warned that localised flooding could occur in areas affected by heavy rain, and water levels could rise significantly on Friday.

Due to the warning of heavy rain and hail, all schools in the Ahrweiler district in Rhineland-Palatinate were to remain closed on Friday.

Residents were urged to keep listening to weather forecasts as well as checking warning apps like Katwarn and Nina. In the Ahr valley, 134 people were killed and thousands of homes destroyed in severe flooding in July 2021. Many people are still living in temporary accommodation.

Overnight and into Saturday, the storms are expected to move east.

The DWD said storms and heavy rainfall was expected around the Danube river. 

Temperatures will fall slightly – on the coast it should reach 14-18C, while it is likely to be around 20-25C elsewhere in Germany.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

Germany has regulations on working during a heatwave - but does that also apply to people who work remotely? We take a look.

Reader question: Is it ever too hot to work from home in Germany?

The number of people working from home shot up during the Covid pandemic, and though employees no longer have the right to work remotely by law, many have chosen to stick with more flexible arrangements and set up a home office at least part of the week.

This is great news for people who enjoy a lie-in more than a long commute, but there are some downsides. One major issue is that it’s not always clear how Germany’s strict employee protection rules actually apply in a home setting. The rules for working during a heatwave are a good example of this.

How does Germany regulate working in extreme heat? 

By law in Germany, employers are responsible for creating a safe environment for their workers. This means that they should try and keep the temperature below 26C at all times and are legally obliged to take action if the temperature goes above 30C. 

That could include putting blinds on the windows to prevent the glare of the sun, installing air conditioning systems or purchasing fans. In some cases – such as outdoor manual labour – it could also involve starting and finishing earlier in the day. 

And in really high temperatures, employers may simply decide to call the whole thing off and give their employees a ‘hitzefrei’ day – basically a heat-induced day off – to go and cool down in a lake. However, business owners are generally given free rein to decide how hot is too hot in this instance (except in the case of vulnerable workers). 

READ ALSO: Hitzefrei: Is it ever legally too hot to go to work or school in Germany?

Do the heat rules apply to ‘home office?’

Unfortunately not. In most cases in Germany, the company isn’t directly involved in setting up the workspace for an employee that works from home, aside from possibly providing a laptop or phone for remote use. 

“The occupational health and safety regulations regarding room temperature do not apply in this case,” labour law expert Meike Brecklinghaus told German business publication T3N. “This is because the employer does not have direct access to the employee’s workplace and in this respect cannot take remedial action.”

That means that on hot days, it’s the employee’s own responsibility to make sure the environment is suitable for working in. 

woman works from home in Germany

A woman works in her living room at home. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Naupold

One duty employers do have, however, is to instruct their workers about the best way to set up a healthy work environment at home, for example by giving guidance on how to regulate the temperature. 

“In the end, it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain his or her workplace in a condition in which he or she can perform his or her work without the threat of health impairments,” Brecklinghaus explained.

What can home office workers do in hot weather?

There are plenty of ways to keep flats cooler in the summer months, including purchasing your own fan, keeping curtains or blinds drawn and ventilating the rooms in the evening or early morning when the weather is cooler.

However, if heat is really becoming a problem, it’s a good idea to communicate this to your employer. This is especially important if you have a health condition that makes it more dangerous to work in hot weather. 

In some cases, you might be able to negotiate for the employer to pay for the purchase of a fan or mobile air conditioner as goodwill gesture. If possible, you could also arrange to travel to the office where the temperature should be better regulated.

Another option for early birds or night owls is to arrange more flexible working hours so you can avoid sweltering at your desk in the midday sun, although this of course depends on operational factors. 

READ ASO: Jobs in Germany: Should foreign workers join a union?

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