Heavy snow, high winds wreak havoc across Europe

Monday, December 11, 2017

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BRUSSELS, Belgium (AFP) — High winds and heavy snow in Europe on Monday stranded thousands of travellers, kept schoolchildren at home and even played havoc with international diplomacy.

It was the second day running of fierce weather across the continent, with Britain still digging out from its deepest snowfall in four years.

The snowed-over runways in Brussels led to about 300 flight cancellations on Monday — with Brussels airport saying the number amounted to half of those scheduled — and some 100 delays, including for the plane carrying Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back home.

He tweeted a video from his plane that opened with a shot of the white tarmac at the close of his European visit, which was marked by the US recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

A scheduled meeting between Netanyahu and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had to be called off because of the weather, officials said.

Brussels airport advised passengers to stay away, as staff were trying to de-ice planes and clear snow from the runways.

"Heavy snowfall: do not come to the airport until further notice," the airport said on Twitter, adding that passengers should check the status of their flights.

Schiphol airport, just outside Amsterdam, had cancelled 430 flights by early afternoon — about a third of all flights in or out of one of Europe's five busiest air hubs — while many others faced long delays.

Eindhoven airport, the Netherlands' second biggest, said just after midday that "due to wintry weather conditions, the runway is currently closed".

But it was not just knee-high snow that was causing trouble, with winds of up to 150 kilometres per hour (93 miles per hour) forecast along France's Atlantic Coast.

About 120,000 households were without power in France as storms that caused a ferry to run aground in Calais on Sunday continued to sweep the centre and west of the country.

Brutal winds shut down ferry service between the southern Spanish port of Algeciras and Tangiers in Morocco, while also shuttering some schools in southern Spain.

At the same time, Britain was recovering after heavy snow brought freezing temperatures, prompting the closure of hundreds of schools and disrupting flights for a second day.

Power was restored to more than 100,000 homes, while airports tried to recover their schedules following this winter's first major snowfall — the biggest in four years.

The last time Britain saw this much heavy snow nationwide was in March 2013.

Newspapers were filled with pictures of people either enjoying the snow or stuck in gridlock on the roads.

About 32 centimetres (12.5 inches) of snow fell in Sennybridge in south Wales on Sunday. And temperatures overnight dropped to minus 11.6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) in Northumberland, northeast England.

The Western Power Distribution network said it had restored power to more than 99,500 customers, while a further 7,000 were still without electricity, largely in west-central England. But disruptions continued on the roads and at airports.

London Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport by passenger numbers, said it was still experiencing problems.

"Some flights at Heathrow will be disrupted on Monday due to crew and aircraft being out of position following yesterday's weather," it said.

"We're working with our airline partners to return aircraft to where they need to be, and full service recovery remains the focus."

Hundreds of schools were closed in western England and north Wales, while much of the country was on a yellow weather warning for snow and ice.

All local authority-run schools in the central city of Birmingham were also shut.

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