Stage 17: Pont du Gard – Gap

Today’s stage took us from the Pont du Gard outside Nîmes to Gap in the Alps. Along the way, the peloton spent some time in the valley of the Ouvèze where, in September of 1992, a flood devastated the town of Vaison-la-Romaine, the site of today’s intermediate sprint.

Flood waters in Sarrians, downstream from Vaison-la-Romaine (source: JPS68, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

A convective storm system over the 21st and 22nd of September dropped record-setting amounts of precipitation on the Ouvèze watershed: nearly a foot of rain was recorded in some locations within the 24 hour period. Forty-seven people died in the ensuing flood. Damages amounted to around 500 million francs, which was enormous, especially considering that the population of Vaison is only six thousand. Much of the subsequent analysis of the flood of September 1992 has pointed to urbanization within the watershed — with the accompanying increase in impervious surface area — as exacerbating the effect of the high rainfall.

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