Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ice, snow, and cold strike throughout Europe

-- From Wikinews Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Freezing temperatures, combined with snow over the past few days, have caused travel problems throughout Europe and been responsible for the death of 10 people. On Monday, a strong winter storm moved across Europe, covering parts of Europe with several inches of snow in France and the United Kingdom.

The storm ranged as far as Germany, Belgium, and parts of Northern Italy. This was combined with freezing, Arctic-like temperatures ranging from 23° Fahrenheit to 14°F in the United Kingdom and France, while in some parts of central Romania the temperature plunged to -24°F and Germany felt temperatures of 15°F. Forecasters predict that the freezing temperatures may be the start of a cold spell that could affect the entire continent throughout the month.

Monday's heavy snowstorm forced Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport, slightly north of Paris, to cancel most of its flights. 1,658 passengers from Air France alone were stranded at the airport after their flights were grounded due to the heavy snow and icy conditions. The passengers from the 120 canceled Air France flights spent the night in hotels near the airport, and were accommodated for by the airline.

An official from Air France stated that the passengers "will have available food and hot drinks". Most flights were grounded until the next morning. Tuesday, an official from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle said "It did not snow last night. The runways are clear and have been de-iced. Traffic is returning to normal."

The frigid temperatures resulted in several school closings across France and the United Kingdom, with government forecasters from both countries predicted that the cold would stay for several days. Most schools in the United Kingdom were closed to problems with their heating systems, as heating repair services in Britain received a record number of calls for repair of broken heating systems this week.

In Paris, accumulating snow and slippery ice resulted in French officials closing pedestrian access to the Eiffel Tower, one of the city's prime tourist locations.

"We can't put down salt because it's metallic, we can't use sand either because it risks getting into the elevator," stated a press official from the Eiffel Tower. The tower remained closed on Monday and re-opened on Tuesday.

The storm has caused the deaths of at least 13 people, whether directly or indirectly. Polish government officials have reported that 10 people have frozen to death following overnight temperatures of -15°F that were recorded throughout the country. Police in Germany reported that a 77-year-old mentally-ill woman also froze to death after she was reported missing from a nursing home in Weimar. Romanian officials also reported that frigid temperatures killed two people and sent several to the hospital.

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