As record amounts of late-winter snow cover areas of northern Europe, a new storm from the south has brought freezing rain and thunderstorms to the continent. Subzero temperatures have killed dozens since last Friday.
Across Europe on Thursday, flights were delayed, trains canceled and roads blocked as Storm Emma tracked north from the coast of Portugal over France bringing 150 kilometer-per-hour (93 mile-per-hour) wind gusts, gales and snow for the weekend.
The storm from the south was tracking a path that would have it collide with the "Beast from the East," which has brought blizzards from Siberia and freezing temperatures to Europe.
Unusually warm temperatures over the Arctic have weakened the jet stream that usually brings warm air in from the Atlantic to Ireland and Britain, allowing the icy winds from the east to dominate the weather over Europe.
Europe's coldest temperature was recorded by the Norwegian Meteorological Institute on Thursday at -41.8 degrees Celsius (-43.25 Fahrenheit) in the southeast of the country.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar urged people to get home early on Thursday afternoon and stay home until the storm passed. He said the forecast predicted blizzards, 100 kph winds, zero visibility and deep pockets of snow.
"The risk to life and limb presented by severe weather conditions should not be underestimated," Varadkar said. Ireland's parliament suspended its activities until Monday due to the storm, which was expected to dump 40 centimeters (15 inches) of snow on parts of Ireland.
Cold weather closed Geneva airport in the French-speaking part of Switzerland for several hours on Thursday.
A combination of frigid days and nights that hardened the ground and a slight melting of the snow, which then froze and iced up airport facilities, runways and tarmacs had caused the closure, Geneva airport director Andre Schneider said.
Dublin airport closed and was not expected to open again until Saturday.
In the Netherlands on Thursday, only two of the six landing strips at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport could be used on Thursday morning and sea barriers south of Rotterdam were closed to protect shipping.
The most serious travel warnings were issued in parts of Scotland, southern England, Wales and Ireland as the expected blizzards could pose a risk to life. Hundreds of people had been trapped in their cars on the motorway between Edinburgh and Glasgow overnight and many roads remained blocked on Thursday.
Half of the trains into London's Waterloo station were canceled at the height of the rush hour on Thursday morning. Southern Railways said a 2.5-meter (8-foot) icicle in a tunnel was delaying services. The National Grid utility company warned there may not be enough gas to meet UK industrial demand on Thursday.
Thousands of schools remained closed with meteorologists warning the cold weather could last into next week and even beyond.
Storms to the south
The storms and disruption extended to the normally mild south of France and 15,000 homes along the Mediterranean were without power on Thursday, according to the Enedis electrical network. Two thousand vehicles were still blocked by snow in the southern department of Herault on Thursday morning.
Snowstorms that had hit Naples in southern Italy extended north to include the Venice lagoon in the north before turning to rain. Schools in Florence were closed and heavy goods vehicles were banned from northern Italian roads.
Two more people were reported to have died from the effects of the weather on Thursday: a woman with dementia in Denmark and an asylum-seeker who left a refugee center in Sweden with her two children. The woman was found dead in a forest. The children are being cared for in hospital. Across Europe, 50 people are known to have died as a result of the extreme weather that started last week.
In Paris on Wednesday night, 20 regional lawmakers spent the night outdoors in the capital to call attention to the situation of homeless people. An additional 6,000 places have been opened to care for homeless people during the cold weather. Mama Sy, deputy mayor of Etampes, south of Paris, said it was "out of the question" that the places would no longer be available when the weather improved. At least 13 homeless people have died in the French capital since the start of the year.
jm/sms (Reuters, AFP)