The Hague (AFP)
The Netherlands was blanketed on Sunday by the first major snowstorm to hit the country in 10 years, disrupting rail and road traffic, as a cold front pushed through northern Europe.
Train services were also affected by snow in neighbouring Germany, while across the North Sea Britain was bracing for the impact what Dutch meteorologists have dubbed Storm Darcy.
The conditions are so severe that the Dutch government has closed all coronavirus testing centres for several days.
The Dutch meteorological agency KNMI declared a rare “Code Red” warning for the whole country for Sunday, warning of winds of up to 90 kilometres (55 miles) an hour and “bitter cold.”
Weather forecasting website Weer.nl said that overnight a force 8 wind was measured in combination with snowfall, adding: “This officially means a snowstorm in our country.
“It is the first snowstorm in a long time: the last snowstorm took place in January 2010,” it said.
Most parts of the country had between five and 10 centimetres (two and four inches) of snow but some areas received 30 centimetres, public broadcaster NOS said.
All trains were cancelled in the Netherlands until at least 12 noon, train operator NS said.
Motorists were advised to avoid travelling and there were around 85 reports of cars skidding off the road, the Dutch infrastructure authority.
One local authority tweeted a picture of one of its snow ploughs that had fallen into a ditch.
– ‘Beast from the East’ –
Up to 10 days of sub-zero daytime temperatures are expected in the Netherlands, raising hopes in the skating-obsessed country that canals will freeze over to be skated on.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said ice skating will be allowed if the canals freeze for the first time since 2019, but warned Dutch people to observe social distancing and to try not to fall over and end up in already overstretched hospitals.
Hopes that a 200-kilometre (125-mile) ice-skating marathon through 11 cities called the Elfstedentocht could be held for the first time since 1997 are however on ice because of coronavirus restrictions.
In Germany, snowfall caused major disruption to trains in North-Westphalia, the country’s most populous region with 18 million people, and trains leaving Hamburg.
The snow also caused major traffic delays with 222 accidents reported since Saturday afternoon, a police spokesman told DPA news agency.
Heavier snow of up to 40 centimetres was expected in parts of northern Germany overnight, meteorological service DWD said.
Belgium, which also neighbours the Netherlands, received a light dusting of snow but was expecting a big temperature drop as the week progresses.
In Britain, the authorities issued an amber weather warning in southeast England for what local media dubbed the “Beast from the East II”.
The first “beast” in 2018 caused 10 days of snow in Britain.
The current warning is for roads becoming blocked by deep snow and disruptions to bus, rail and air travel.
The UK was “starting to see the whites of the eyes” of the storm, according to BBC weather.
© 2021 AFP