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Major snowstorm hits Europe, U.K. as temperatures plummet

It was the first significant snowstorm in the Netherlands in 10 years.

A person well wrapped up against the cold weather walks through the snow in Berlin's Kreuzberg district Monday. (David Gannon/AFP/Getty Images)

Parts of Europe and the United Kingdom are digging out after a significant snowstorm dropped up to 15 inches of snow in areas unaccustomed to the weather hazard, grinding travel to a halt and disrupting coronavirus testing sites. Plummeting temperatures will accompany the “Beast from the East,” freezing canals as the mercury dips some 20 degrees below average for this time of the year.

Continued snow will affect parts of the United Kingdom, where the Met Office has warned that “there is a good chance that some rural communities could become cut off.” Amber warnings were in effect for areas northwest of Edinburgh, while yellow warnings blanket the entire east coast of the U.K.; that’s where additional accumulating snow was likely Monday and Tuesday.

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Heavy snow fell this weekend in far southeastern England, as cold winds carried moisture inland from the North Sea.

Meanwhile, significant snow is likely throughout the week in Eastern Europe, with double-digit totals possible in eastern Poland, southern Belarus and Ukraine.

The wintry weather began over the weekend when a series of low-pressure systems began moving east across western Europe. The repeated storm systems drew cold air down from the northeast while also transporting moisture from the south, contributing to hefty snow totals. The first system, dubbed “Storm Darcy” by weather officials in the Netherlands, is paving the way for additional snowfall.

Dutch officials began naming storms last year in a recently codified partnership with the U.K. Met Office and Ireland’s Met Éireann.

Conditions deteriorated late Saturday and raged Sunday in Europe, where winds reportedly gusted up to 55 mph. The Dutch Meteorological Institute even hoisted red weather warnings, urging residents of the Netherlands to stay off roadways.

According to Euronews, it’s the first significant snowstorm to hit the Netherlands in a decade. The Guardian reports that all train service was suspended during the height of the storm, with numerous flights out of Amsterdam canceled as well.

In adjacent Germany, at least a foot of snow fell in western parts of the country through Sunday morning, with drifts up to three feet. Hundreds of car accidents were reported.

Precipitation began as rain in the United Kingdom late Saturday, flipping to snow as the atmosphere cooled. Several inches accumulated in Kent, just southeast of London, where snow is unusual. Totals in the four-inch range were evident in Canterbury, about 10 miles inland from the English Channel.

Elsewhere in Europe, southerly winds ahead of Darcy transported a blanket of Saharan dust north to the Swiss Alps, causing the snow to turn a dusty, reddish-brown.

By late Monday, Darcy was translating eastward through Eastern Europe, where it could drop as much as a foot of snow in Ukraine. Behind it trailed secondary and tertiary low-pressure systems, which will conspire to reinforce the presence of cold air over Europe.

The tempestuous trio was organizing a conveyor belt of frigid air from Russia that will team up with Arctic high pressure building in by the weekend.

That onshore flow will bring renewed snow to the United Kingdom, while also pouring frigid air over central and Eastern Europe. The coldest air will stretch from the Netherlands and Germany east to Poland, where temperatures could remain below freezing for the next 10 days. Highs will sit 15 to 20 degrees below average.

The prime minister of the Netherlands has promised that, if canals freeze, ice skating will be permitted — so long as residents obey social distancing protocols.

Recent blockbuster snow totals along East Coast may be tied to climate change

Below-average temperatures look to persist across much of Europe through at least mid to late February, part of the same chain of events bringing bitter cold to much of the North Central United States.

A disrupted polar vortex is allowing cold to spill out of high latitudes across the Arctic, sending lobes of frigid cold south into Europe, Asia and North America.