As the town of Bad Reichenhall struggles to recover from its ice rink disaster, much of southern Germany and Austria braces for continued snow. Officials worry the weather could result in more accidents.
Heavy wet snow is to blame for chaos in southern Germany
A day after the roof of an ice skating rink in Bad Reichenhall collapsed under a heavy load of wet snow, officials in surrounding towns and across the border in Austria fret that continued snowfall could cause more rooftops to cave in. Many building authorities are calling for inspections of public places.
Throughout Austria, fire fighters, army soldiers and civilian experts checked snow-laden rooftops over sports centers, train stations, exhibition halls and other buildings with flat roofs to determine if they were in imminent danger of collapse. In the province of Salzburg, which is just across the border from Bad Reichenhall, authorities shut down several sports centers citing too much wet, heavy snow. Meanwhile, emergency rescue crews reviewed their readiness plans for responding quickly in the event of a roof collapse, Salzburg Mayor Heinz Schaden told national broadcaster ORF.
The roof of an ice rink in Bad Reichenhall collapsed on Monday, killing at least 11 people.
Worried about another disaster in their region, police in Traunstein near Bad Reichenhall responded quickly to concerns from train authorities that heavy snow was weighing down a roof over a train track. Police spokesman Johann Bohnert said all train traffic was halted temporarily until the snow could be removed. Otherwise there was a very real risk the roof could collapse, he said, adding that after the disaster in the ice rink "we are now very cautious."
Meanwhile, meteorologists predicted more snow for the coming days and warned that up to 20 cm. of new snow could fall, mixing with the already high levels of fallen snow. Streets and train tracks will likely be impassable and trees could break under the weight of the snow. The German weather service recommended people in the hardest hit regions of southern German along the border of Austria avoid travelling by car and stay indoors if possible.
Wet snow partially to blame
To some the high degree of caution may seem exaggerated for a region seasonally prone to heavy snowfall. But meteorologists are saying the particular combination of moist air brought in by the barometric low "Annekathrin" and temperatures hovering around freezing create an especially wet snow. And wet snow is heavier than fluffy dry fakes.
As a comparison, a cubic meter of wet snow weighs between 300 and 500 kilograms, the same amount of dry snow weighs only about 100 to 200 kilograms.
Manfred Spatzierer, a meteorologist from Wetterdienst Meteomedia, told dpa news agencies that south eastern Bavarian had received about 50 liters of wet snow per square meter in just 24 hours. "That is a big dumping," he said and added that the cold temperatures meant the snow would stick. If it were a bit warmer, the snow would begin to melt; at colder temperatures the snow would be lighter and the wind would carry it away, he said.
Snowfall at near freezing is always "quite dangerous," Spatzierer said. His colleague Michael Beisenherz agreed: "If it had been normal powder snow, we would have had about a meter of it, but it would not have remained on the roof top."