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Freak snowfalls strand 6,000 on Franco-Spanish border

People walk along a road covered by snow during a heavy snowfall in Barcelona on March 8, 2010. Photo courtesy AFP

Rare snow surprises Italians
Siena, Italy (AFP) March 9, 2010 - A rare snowfall surprised central and northern Italy on Tuesday, blanketing the tourist meccas of Pisa and Siena and snarling traffic in Viterbo, north of Rome. Mountain areas of southern Calabria meanwhile accumulated 40 centimetres (16 inches) of snow overnight, media reports said. Public safety officials met Tuesday with rescue workers, police and officials from rail and motorway companies to prepare for weather that is expected to worsen Wednesday. More snow is expected in the centre-north, and heavy rain in the south. Emergency situations official Fabrizio Curzio warned of landslides in Sicily and Calabria. Mountainous areas of Piedmont in the northwest reported below-freezing temperatures -- minus 21.4 Celsius (minus 6.5 Fahrenheit) in Sestriere near Turin -- and the risk of avalanches was estimated at four on a scale of five. In the mountains of the northeastern Veneto region, temperatures were between six and eight degrees below normal for the season. High winds lashed coastal areas, prompting fears of disruption of ferry services to outlying islands.

Snow causes traffic chaos in Bulgaria
Sofia (AFP) March 9, 2010 - Heavy snowfall and strong winds caused havoc on roads across Bulgaria on Tuesday, road officials and rescue services said. Snowstorms completely cut off access to three small municipalities near Varna on the Black Sea, prompting local authorities to declare a state of emergency for a second time this year, the rescue services said. Heavy winds and snowdrifts left dozens of villages in the northeastern region of Dobrich without electricity. A major road linking the capital Sofia to the northern city of Ruse and the country's only bridge over the Danube to Romania were intermittently closed and traffic on two major highways between Sofia and the Black Sea cities of Varna and Burgas was also brought to a standstill. The mountainous Zlatograd-Ksanti border crossing with Greece was also shut. Traffic in the capital Sofia has been severely disrupted since the snowfall began early Monday, with commuters complaining it can take them as long as five hours to travel from the outer neighbourhoods to the city centre.
by Staff Writers
Barcelona, Spain (AFP) March 9, 2010
Heavy snow Tuesday stranded thousands of road travellers on the French-Spanish border, blanketed Italian cities and left 10,000 homes in Corsica without power.

A freak snowstorm dumped more than a metre (3.3 feet) of snow on the Pyrenees mountains, stranding more than 6,000 travellers Tuesday and blocking some 40 roads between France and Spain.

Cross-border traffic was halted, leaving a tailback of 1,750 trucks on the French flank of the mountains, parts of which suffered last week when the area was battered by hurricane-force winds and heavy rain.

Barcelona on Monday saw its heaviest snowfall since 1962, triggering emergency measures, with weather-related problems reported across the region.

Northeastern Spain came to a frozen standstill late Monday. Flights were cancelled, schools closed and the entire Barcelona region saw major disruption to road and rail transport.

In the Girona region, Spanish energy company Fecsa-Endesa said 200,000 households were without electricity, while snowfalls of up to 50 centimetres (almost two feet) saw schools closed Tuesday for 165,960 pupils.

In the Aude region of southern France, firefighters and local authority workers brought hot food and drink to 1,800 passengers stuck on trains, and 550 retirees and school children on bus tours to Spain.

"In Perpignan, passengers were able to bed down on a sleeper train, but we spent the night sitting up and didn't even get blankets until 3:00 am," complained Jean-Marc Rossignol, escorting his 75- and a 82-year-old parents to Toulouse.

The main A9 motorway was blocked by snow, with hundreds of travellers seeking temporary shelter in municipal buildings along the route, before it was reopened late morning.

In Corsica where authorities announced a weather alert until Thursday, falling trees cut power lines leaving 10,000 homes without electricity, mostly in the northern part of the French island.

The icy weather also extended to Italy, where a rare snowfall surprised central and northern regions on Tuesday, blanketing the tourist meccas of Pisa, Siena and Assisi and snarling traffic in Viterbo, north of Rome.

Snow closed schools on the island of Elba and in the Umbria region, while in Sicily a landslide disrupted rail travel.

Mountain areas of southern Calabria meanwhile accumulated 40 centimetres (16 inches) of snow overnight, media reports said, while the northwestern Piedmont region reported below-freezing temperatures and a high risk of avalanches.

Meanwhile, high winds lashed coastal areas.

Italian public safety officials met Tuesday with rescue workers, police and officials from rail and motorway companies to prepare for weather that is expected to worsen Wednesday.




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WHITE OUT
Snow storm closes Barcelona schools, disrupts travel
Barcelona, Spain (AFP) March 8, 2010
Heavy snowfalls pounded northeastern Spain on Monday, knocking out power, canceling flights and forcing the closure of schools in Barcelona and the surrounding area, officials said. Accumulations of up to 50 centimetres (20 inches) of snow were forecast for the worst affected areas of Catalonia, prompting the regional government to cancel classes for over 142,000 students at 476 public schoo ... read more

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