26 January 2004
PARIS – Heavy snow and icy winds began sweeping northern France on Monday, forcing train stoppages and motorway closures, while weather forecasters warned blizzards and freezing conditions would affect most of the country through the week.
National meteorological office Meteo-France on Monday issued an Orange Alert warning – second highest on a scale of four – for 26 ‘departements’, or administrative regions, covering Paris, most of northern France as well as the regions of Burgundy and the Franche-Comte further south.
Meteo-France predicted snowfalls of between five and 10 centimetres in the north of the country during the day, with futher snow expected overnight and temperatures reaching minus figures.
The national railway board, the SNCF, said services were disrupted Monday between the western city of Rennes and Paris as a result of the storms, with trains expected to run 20 to 40 minutes behind schedule until 6:00 pm.
Police ordered truck drivers off a 40-kilometre (25-mile) stretch of the A72 motorway for five hours in hilly country between the cities of Clermont-Ferrand and Saint-Etienne, where up to 10 centimeters of snow fell early in the day.
Sections of motorways in Normandy and Brittany on France’s northwest coast were closed to traffic, and trucks were barred from several minor routes. Motorists in Paris were urged to take special care due to possible black ice on the roads.
The government on Sunday instructed local authorities in Paris and across northern France to introduce extreme cold weather contingency plans, which include providing emergency shelters for homeless sleeping rough.
Schools in some areas of Burgundy cancelled classes for Tuesday.
Snow was by Tuesday expected to affect a wide band of central and eastern France, from the Channel coast to the Massif Central, with snowfalls expected across most of the country by Wednesday.
The cold snap is forecast to last until the weekend.
© Expatica France News with AFP
Subject: France news