Traffic snarled, schools closed as storm slams Europe
Damaris Hay removes snow from her vehicle on Kleber Kaserne, Germany, before going home Tuesday afternoon. Kaiserslautern Military Community members were released from work early due to inclement weather. Civilian employees in Wiesbaden, Bamberg and Schweinfurt also were released early.
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Wintry weather pounded parts of Europe on Tuesday, making roads treacherous and forcing closures and cancellations at military communities in parts of Belgium, the Netherlands and western parts of Germany.
The storm rolled in before sunrise in Kaiserslautern, blanketing roads with just under 2 inches of snow by the peak of the morning’s commute. The Weather Channel’s forecasting site, weather.com, indicated snow would continue intermittently throughout the day before tapering off in the early hours Wednesday.
The winter weather, on the heels of a spring-like weekend, caused some on-base services in the area to grind to a halt as personnel were sent home early in anticipation of worsening conditions.
The U.S. Army’s Installation Management Command-Europe website indicated Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Wiesbaden, Baumholder, Schweinfurt and Kaiserslautern in Germany, would close early. DODDS schools in Belgium and the Netherlands either closed early or never opened, according to the site.
Commissaries in the Kaiserslautern area announced a 2 p.m. closure, Wiesbaden’s commissary was to close at 5 p.m., and military and civilian personnel alike were given the go-ahead to leave work early. Civilian employees in Bamberg and Schweinfurt also were released early.
The weather also caused some snow-related air traffic delays at Ramstein Air Base, but operations were continuing almost as scheduled, according to a spokeswoman.
Off base, the storm’s effects were more dramatic.
German police in the Westpfalz region responded to at least 70 snow-related accidents before 11 a.m., and estimated the total damage from the wrecks at a quarter-million euros — roughly $335,000, according to a statement from Rhineland Pfalz police. Some 60 of those collisions occurred during the morning rush in Kaiserslautern, according to police. Only minor injuries were reported.
The storm also forced Frankfurt Airport, the main air hub in the region, to close.
Dieter Hulick, spokesman for Frankfurt Airport, told Stars and Stripes that “nearly 600 flights have been canceled,” saying that whenever the snowplows had cleared the runways, another thin layer of snow and ice would form.
“Since security comes first with us, we decided to close the runways,” he said, though some flights resumed at 1:30 p.m.
He also said that the airports in London, Brussels and Paris had the same problems, therefore it would take some time until the situation returned to normal.
He said if the weather improved, air traffic can be expected to be back to normal by sometime Wednesday afternoon.
In Paris, about a four-hour drive to the west, about a quarter of flights were canceled due to snow.
A wintry mix of ice and snow also jammed traffic across large swaths of the United Kingdom, where police assisted hundreds of drivers stranded in their cars on slick roads, according to British broadcaster Sky. Belgium had a record 1,600 kilometers — or 992 miles — of traffic jams during rush hour as blowing snow reduced visibility and caused snowdrifts on roadways, The Associated Press reported.
Forecasts indicate the storm might altogether miss some areas more accustomed to wintry weather or have less of an impact. The 21st Operational Weather Squadron predicted 2 inches of snow in Grafenwöhr and Hohenfels and up to 8 inches in Garmisch, home of the Army’s Edelweiss Lodge and Resort.
Reporter Marcus Klöckner contributed to this report.