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Heavy snowfall in the Alps
Image: Bernd März/Imago Images

Heavy snowfalls in Austria, alpine Italy

December 6, 2020

Heavy snowfalls and rain have caused chaos in alpine Austria and northern Italy. Avalanche alerts apply in Austria's East Tirol and Italy's Dolomites and South Tirol. Italy's Po river are among those flooded.

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Austrian authorities declared avalanche alerts Sunday as heavy snowfalls blocked roads and rail segments and left thousands of homes without electricity.

Across Italy's northern Emilia-Romagna region, rising rivers prompted evacuations as the north's main conduit, the river Po, rose 2.5 meters (8 feet) in 24 hours.

Schools in Austria's East Tirol and Carinthia were ordered closed for Monday as Tirolian avalanche expert Rudi Mair warned that moist snow slabs could slide.

The falls coincided with hefty debate across alpine Europe about banning skiing to minimize coronavirus contacts.

Read more: Coronavirus: Germany seeks EU-wide ban on ski trips

Austria, France and Italy have plans to shut or severely restrict access to slopes this coming holiday season while Switzerland plans hygiene rules to keep them open.

Massive snowfall at the Brenner Pass
At the Brenner Pass, 90 centimeters of snow were recordedImage: Bernd März/Imago Images

Snowfall record books checked

By Sunday, new snow readings over 24 hours neared records: At Umhausen in East Tirol 80 centimeters (31 inches) were recorded from Saturday into Sunday.

At the Brenner Pass, 90 centimeters of snow were recorded. Rail traffic through to the Italian city of Bozen was halted because of landslide and avalanche risks.

In Italy's Dolomite and South Tirol regions, rescue services were called out hundreds of times. Houses were evacuated in Emilia-Romagna as the river Panaro overflowed its banks.

Read more: Landslides and less snow. Climate change is altering the Bavarian Alps

Viewer video: Skiing in Austria

FIS cancels ski racing

Swamped by snow, the International Ski Federation (FIS) canceled men's giant slalom racing at Santa Caterina Valfurva in northern Italy, moving it to Monday.

Racing had taken place on Saturday but only after workers cleared away fresh snow.

Likewise at St Moritz in Switzerland, the women's super G contest was cancelled due to "heavy snowfall and strong wind" and "high danger of avalanche."

Read more: Italy's melting glaciers face new threat: Pink ice

ipj/shs (dpa, AP, AFP)

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