Travel chaos as Europe shivers in heavy snowfalls

3rd February 2009, Comments 1 comment

Across Europe Monday, travelers were delayed and people struggled to get to work.

London -- A blanket of snow covered much of western Europe on Monday with heavy falls causing major flight disruptions in Britain and France and bringing misery to the roads.

London lay under 10 centimeters (four inches) of snow, the most recorded in the British capital in 18 years.

Flurries also brought chaos to parts of France and Spain, while three people died in Italy amid adverse weather conditions there. The snow showers reached as far south as Morocco.

Snow caused a Cyprus Airways plane with 104 passengers on board to come off the taxiway at Heathrow, the world's biggest international airport to the west of London.

"The plane had safely landed and was making its way to the stand and the front wheel went on to the grass area," a spokeswoman for airport operator BAA said. Passengers were bussed to the terminal and there were no injuries.

Both runways have since been closed at Heathrow and all flights were cancelled up to 5:00 pm (1700 GMT). In addition, British Airways called off all its short-haul flights for the rest of the day.

A number of other British airports were closed or experienced severe delays and flight cancellations.

In Wales, two climbers were killed on Mount Snowdon and hundreds of schools were closed around the country.

Forecasters at the Met Office issued a severe weather warning for London and the southeast of England, while train and London Underground services have also been badly hit.

An army of snow ploughs and gritters were working to clear roads as a spokesman for the Highways Agency said: "If your journey is not essential I would strongly advise you don't make it."

There was reportedly a 54-mile (87-kilometer) tailback on the M25 orbital road north of London.

Hundreds of schools in southeast England have also been shut.

"It's absolute madness going in to work, but at least I can say I tried," said Bree McWilliam, an Australian policy analyst from Brisbane who experienced her first ever snowfall as she struggled into work. "I've never seen snow before, it's very exciting,” said the 28-year-old. “It doesn't snow in Queensland."

In France, flights were delayed by an average of an hour in Paris's Orly and Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airports. One of Orly's two runways was closed, and the other opened two hours late.

Air France cancelled around 30 short and medium haul flights from Charles de Gaulle between 7:00 am (0600 GMT) and 10:00 am, but said long haul routes had not been troubled.

France's road traffic agency urged motorists to cancel non-essential journeys. Roads were difficult, in a small number of cases impassable, around Paris and in the east near Strasbourg.

The snow and icy conditions caused a dozen accidents in the Paris region without causing injuries, officials said.

In Italy, three people died and 500 people had to be evacuated from their homes Sunday amid bad weather in parts of the country. Milan woke Monday to a dusting of snow.

Up to 20 centimeters also fell in parts of Switzerland overnight while part of the road around the San Bernardino tunnel was closed.

One to three centimeters (around an inch) of snow fell in Belgium, where around 400 kilometers of traffic jams accumulated during the morning peak hour.

"The rain and snow that have been forecast are going to turn our roads into ice rinks," Belgium's touring automobile association said.

Snowfalls snarled traffic in several parts of Spain including the Madrid area where sections of two highways were temporarily closed to vehicles, causing traffic jams, the National Travel Administration Department (DGT) reported.

In Ireland, particularly in the east of the country, snow caused hazardous driving conditions there and flights between Ireland and Britain were disrupted.

Ireland's Meteorological Office issued a severe weather warning that "heavy snowfall" of up to eight centimeters would affect eastern areas later on Monday.

Katherine Haddon/AFP/Expatica

1 Comment To This Article

  • flying tiger posted:

    on 4th February 2009, 13:32:37 - Reply

    Four inches of snow is a major snow storm? Here in Saint Louis Missouri we have had temperatures ranging from 8 degrees to 12 degrees for lows and highs in the tewenties. These are Fahrenheite temps. We also had over six inches of snow or 19 centimeters. The snow has been on the ground now for about a week since its been too cold to melt away. Further North snowfalls reach 24 inchesor 60 centimeters much of the time. This does not promote a tragedy, however, since we soft and rich Americans are adept at taking care of businesses without missing a beat. In St. Louis our temperatures range in winter from 0 degres to 100 degrees in the summers. Yeah, we Americans are a bunch of pansies, say what.

    Deal with your dusting of snow Europe and act like a man about it.
    Flying Tiger