Snowstruck parts of Europe dig out, but another big storm on horizon

Munich: Snowstruck parts of Europe got a slight breather on Friday, but meteorologists warned that more snow was coming at the weekend, while safety officials cautioned that the metres of snow that had already fallen posed dangers.
Across the Alps, safety agencies lowered the avalanche threat level, but did not remove it completely. Crews in Austria began sending out flights to reconnoitre the areas most heavily hit.
But the affected areas were far from trouble-free. Multiple flights were cancelled out of Munich and Frankfurt. A spokesperson for Frankfurt Airport said about a tenth of flights — about 120 — were scrubbed because of slick conditions. Munich saw about 90 cancelled.
For a second night in a row, German motorists had to spend their night in their vehicles because of poor road conditions. This time, the affected drivers were on the A8 highway near Chiemsee, in the south.
Volunteers provided refreshments and blankets throughout the night before the roads cleared up enough for driving.
“In some cases, we had to wake up the truck drivers,” said a police spokesperson. “Then it took a little time until they got their trucks up and running again.”
In Austria, citizens of Tyrol’s capital Innsbruck were told to stay indoors and shutter their windows on Friday to avoid being hit by an avalanche, the city authority said.
The precautionary measure affects around 300 people living on the slope of the mountain range that towers over the Austrian city. In other parts of the country, avalanche experts lowered the hazard level slightly on Friday, but the risk remained considerable across the Alps.
In Switzerland, tourists were transported down from the Schwaegalp pass on Friday, after an avalanche had swept into their mountain hotel the previous day, police said.
Only three people were slightly injured and no one was reported missing in the incident that wreaked havoc in the hotel’s dining room.
Across the region, meteorologists say areas at an elevation of 1,500 metres and higher had between 1.5 and 2.5 metres of snow. Other lower-lying areas had between 10 and 70 centimetres.
The conservative daily Frankfurter AllgemeineZeitung, in an editorial on Friday, sees a link between climate change and the masses of snow currently blanketing parts of Europe. The paper writes, in part:
“(…) Climate change produces not only long stretches of hot weather in continental areas, like in the summer. Because more heat also means more humidity in the air, it can also produce large amounts of rain or snow like at the moment — at least in areas that are cold enough in winter time. So climate and weather are also linked in the case of chaotic amounts of snow. (…)
“The snow is also a key factor in the debate surrounding the question of how quickly our environments and habitats will change.
“Masses of snow in larger dimensions than currently seen in Bavaria and Austria, namely in Antartica, can rightly be considered a sort of life insurance policy, the planet’s capital in white, as snow can help ameliorate climate change elsewhere.” — dpa