European snowstorm cancels hundreds of flights

January 9, 2010 7:38:25 AM PST
Germans faced the cancellation of hundreds of flights Saturday as fresh snow blew in from the south, and Britons shivered through the country's longest cold snap in three decades as icy weather maintained its grip on Europe. By early afternoon, 226 domestic and international flights had been canceled at Frankfurt airport as a strong low pressure system from the Mediterranean brought gusty winds and covered the country with several inches (centimeters) of snow. Crews struggled to clear the runways, and the few planes that managed to take off had to be deiced first, said Frankfurt airport duty manager Heinz Fass.

Schoenefeld and Tegel airports in Berlin, as well as Munich airport, also reported cancelations as snow turned cities and villages across the country into scenes from a fairy tale.

In Nuremberg, an Air Berlin plane slid off the runway and got stuck in the snow. Nobody was injured, but the airport was closed for more than two hours.

One meteorologist called the conditions Siberian. More than 300 car accidents were reported on icy streets in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg; more than 40 people were injured. The western state of North Rhine-Westphalia reported 108 accidents.

Northeastern German was particularly hard hit. Wind whipped the snow into yard-high drifts along the Baltic coast, making roads impassable. Radio stations reported that several villages on the Baltic island of Ruegen were completely cut off.

On Fehrmarn, another Baltic island, farmers were being asked to use their farm machinery to help clear the roads, said Volker Kluetmann, an island official.

"The snow is so high that even the snow plows get stuck," Kluetmann said. "It's what you would call a real serious winter -- and the winds here are the worst part of it."

In Berlin, even the mice were desperate escape the cold: Swarms of them have taken over the Bundestag, the country's parliament, the daily newspaper Bild reported.

In Britain, cold winds swept in from the north, sending temperatures tumbling to minus 14 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of Scotland and northern England. The country is in the midst of its longest cold snap in three decades, and transport has been disrupted across the country.

Heavy snow forced the cancellation of all flights at Dublin Airport in Ireland. Traffic at Heathrow Airport, Europe's busiest, was also affected, with British Airways alone canceling around 50 flights at the London hub.

The weather has been brutal by Britain's temperate standards, and local authorities across the country are running out of salt and sand. A clutch of sporting events has been canceled -- including five of the seven scheduled Premier League soccer games scheduled for Saturday.

In Switzerland, Geneva airport remained open despite continued snowfall on Saturday, the main transit day for holiday-makers in nearby Chamonix and other French Alpine resorts.


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