Expatica news

Severe winter forecast for Western Europe

22 November 2005

BRUSSELS — Amid forecasts the Belgian Ardennes will be covered in snow by the end of the week, British forecasters have warned of a severe winter across Western Europe.

An old saying suggests that if October is warm and fine, a severe winter will follow and British meteorologists are forecasting the same. The warning has sparked deep concern in Britain where government authorities fear a shortage of gas.

The southern part of Britain is expected to be hit the hardest, along with the bordering area of Europe — including Belgium, Flemish newspaper ‘Het Nieuwsblad’ reported on Monday. It is being forecast as the coldest winter in 50 years.

“We have had a pattern of very mild winters in recent years, so this will come as a shock,” Royal Meteorological Institute spokesman Ewen McCallum said.

Health authorities will need to be especially alert because extra deaths are always reported during severe winters. The ill and elderly are the most vulnerable, McCallum said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is drawing up an emergency plan, but the federal government in Belgium appears to be unconcerned about any possible danger.

A spokesman for Economy Minister Marc Verwilghen said energy supplies are already able to handle the worst case scenario and he is unaware of a special winter plan.

This is despite the fact that British computer models are forecasting very cold easterly winds that could bring especially cold weather. Comparisons are being made to the severe winter of 1956.

However, VTM weatherman Eddy De Mey took the forecasts with a grain of salt. “Season forecasts are worthless in our part of Western Europe. Two models are saying that it will be colder, three that it will be a normal winter,” he said.

On a more definite note, De Mey said it will start snowing in the Ardennes on Thursday. He said the region will be covered in white this coming weekend and ski slopes will open. “My boots stand ready to depart,” he quipped.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Belgian news