A snowplow removes snow on the snowy A25 highway, on March 12, 2013 in Godewaersvelde, northern France, during a heavy snow storm (PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
An unusual late winter snowstorm dumped several inches of snow across northwestern Europe this week, stranding drivers in their cars and severely disrupting air and rail traffic from northern France into Belgium and Germany.
High snowfall rates and poorly treated roads in southern England caused more than 300 collisions in 24 hours, and left many drivers stranded in their cars overnight, reports the BBC.
In Germany, Frankfurt airport temporarily shut down Tuesday after 5 inches of snow cancelled hundreds of flights. On an autobahn north of Frankfurt, heavy snow contributed to an enormous vehicle-pile involving more than 100 cars and injuring at least 20 people.
Hardest hit was Northern France, where heavy, wind-driven snow off the English Channel blocked roads and trapped drivers in their cars in Normandy and Brittany. Up to 20 inches of snow fell in parts of the region overnight into Tuesday, prompting France’s meteorological service to issue its highest-level weather warning for the first time ever due to snow and ice. At last report, some 80,000 homes in northern France remained without power.
Surface chart showing low pressure system and occlusion centered over northern France. (UK Met Office)
The snowstorm, caused by a low pressure system tracking across north-central France, was aided by a March outbreak of arctic air spilling out of Scandinavia. Less than a week ago, springlike conditions were seen across much of central Europe, with temperatures reaching the mid-50s to low 60s (12-18ºC) in many European capitals. In Paris, for instance, the mercury climbed to 60 degrees (16ºC) this past week. Today, the high temperature there was a frigid 28 degrees (-2ºC), well below the normal high of 53ºF.
Though meteorological spring is already underway, wintry conditions will prevail across much of Europe for the next week. AccuWeather reports that a separate Mediterranean low is set to collide with the current cold air in central Europe on Wednesday, which should whiten the landscape in several more capitals, including Vienna and Budapest.
See below for photos of a wintry March scene across Europe...
Snow ploughs remove snow from the airfield at the snow-covered Frankfurt Airport in Frankfurt Main, Germany, 12 March 2013. (NICOLAS ARMER/EPA)
A red squirrel sits in the snow in Wiesbaden, Germany, on March 12, 2013. (FREDRIK VON ERICHSEN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
A car slides into a ditch in the heavy snow on Federal Highway 327 in Waldesch, Germany, 12 March 2013. (THOMAS FREY/EPA)
Pedestrians walk through the snow in Cologne, western Germany, on March 12, 2013. (OLIVER BERG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
A Lent lily is covered in snow in Duesseldorf, western Germany, on March 12, 2013. (MARTIN GERTEN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
People take a walk through the so-called Hafencity, a district at the harbour,during heavy snowfall in Hamburg, northern Germany, Monday, March 11, 2013. (Sven Hoppe/AP)
A picture taken from the Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre district shows snow-covered roofs in Paris on March 12, 2013. The snow caused major disruptions as it moved into Paris, with authorities urging the seven million commuters who use public transport every day to stay home. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
A pedestrian braves heavy snowfall on the snow-covered Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, 12 March 2013. (IAN LANGSDON/EPA)
People walk past the obelisk on Place de la Concorde in Paris, on March 12, 2013, during a heavy snow storm. (BERTRAND GUAY/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
A Beauce Sheep dog covered by snow is pictured on March 12, 2013 in Godewaersvelde, northern France, after a heavy snow storm. (PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
A car driver use a shovel to remove the snow under his car stuck on March 12, 2013 on a secondary road around Godewaersvelde, northern France, during a heavy snow storm. (PHILILPPE HUGUEN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Pedestrians walk on a snow-covered street in Cambrai, northern France, March 12, 2013. (PASCAL ROSSIGNOL/REUTERS)