Fresh avalanche threats end brief respite for the Alps

Avalanche risk monitors announced new warnings for Austria on Saturday after strong winds brought snowfall back to parts of the country overnight.

Fresh snowfall on Saturday and forecast to continue into Sunday, brought an end to a brief pause on Friday.

Heavy snow has brought parts of Europe to a standstill in the past few days, cutting off mountain villages, disrupting transport and triggering avalanches.

At least 21 weather-related deaths have been reported across the continent in the last 10 days.

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The new wave of snow means snow on meadow slopes and in forests could suddenly start to slide — possibly even below an altitude of 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) above sea level.

Avalanches could break loose on steep rocky terrain, the avalanche warning service for the state of Styria in south-east Austria reported.

Across the Alps, safety agencies kept the avalanche threat level at high, but it was downgraded to lower levels in some spots on Saturday, including in Germany’s Berchtesgaden.

Thousands work to remove snow

In southern Germany, workers were making the most of a break in the bad weather to try and clear heavy loads of snow from roofs and roads on Saturday.

Bavarian Premier Markus Söder said the state would send an additional 500 police officers out to assist the worst-affected areas.

“There’s no need for panic, but there is grounds for serious concern,” Söder said in the southern Bavarian Alpine town of Bad Toelz.

Söder said the near 5,000 officials currently deployed are mainly focused on removing snow from roofs that are at risk of collapsing.

In the German Alps and the Bavarian Forest region, between 20 centimeters and 50 centimeters (7.8 inches and 19 inches) of snow is expected at 600 meters above sea level.

  • Car covered by snow

    Snow storm batters southern Germany

    ‘Snow chaos’

    For days, the German state of Bavaria has been inundated by massive amounts of snow. Munich police urged drivers to deal with the snow covering their vehicles or face potential fines after tweeting a picture of a car (not this one!) shrouded in ice at a stoplight. German media has dubbed the extreme weather phenomenon “Schneechaos” — or snow chaos.

  • Bundeswehr tank in Berchtesgaden

    Snow storm batters southern Germany

    Helping out

    In Berchtesgaden, a town in the Bavarian Alps near the Austrian border, Germany’s armed forces — the Bundeswehr — had to deliver much-needed supplies in the middle of the night. The reason: the road to the village was cut off by the sheer amount of snow fall. As such, the military had the only transport vehicles able to reach the area. Local tram services were also in no state to run.

  • Lorries piled up on Autobahn 8 between Munich and Salzburg

    Snow storm batters southern Germany


    For some, the snow kept them from home. Hundreds of drivers had to sleep in their vehicles overnight after being trapped on the highway between Munich and Salzburg. In an editorial, the conservative newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) said climate change may be a contributing factor to the “chaotic amounts of snow” and shows how quickly areas can be changed by its effects.

  • Bayern - Schneemassen in Schönau am Königsee (picture-alliance/dpa/L. Mirgeler)

    Snow storm batters southern Germany

    Air support

    A “Super Puma” helicopter was prepared for takeoff in a parking lot in Schönau am Königsee, a town in southeast Bavaria. The helicopters were used to blow snow from trees and onto roads to prevent trees and their branches from falling onto cars passing by.

  • Bayern - Schneemassen in Berchtesgaden (picture-alliance/dpa/L. Mirgeler)

    Snow storm batters southern Germany

    Emergency work

    A fireman cleared off snow from a roof in the Berchtesgaden region of Bavaria near the Austrian border. More than 1,000 emergency workers were dispatched to Upper Bavaria to deal with the snow.

  • A woman shovels snow

    Snow storm batters southern Germany

    More warnings

    But Bavaria wasn’t the only place in Germany to be affected by the snowfall. North of Bavaria in the German state of Thuringia, park authorities warned people against entering forests, saying enormous snow loads threatened to bring down numerous trees. Several roads were also closed by deep snow and fallen trees.

  • Snow-covered tables in Stuttgart

    Snow storm batters southern Germany

    Snow day

    While not nearly as chaotic as Bavaria and Thuringia, the German state of Baden-Württemberg received plenty of snow too. In Stuttgart, buildings were covered by the white powder frost, while in some parts of the state, school children were allowed to take the day off.

  • Snow-covered shack in Austria

    Snow storm batters southern Germany

    Freezing neighbors

    For days now, Austrian authorities have issued avalanche warnings for its Alpine slopes. At least eight people have been killed by weather-related incidents. In some cases, rescuers have had to save people stranded in cut-off areas. On Thursday, nine tourists from Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Hungary had to be rescued after venturing off-piste in the Zell am See resort area.

  • A refugee child throws a snowball

    Snow storm batters southern Germany

    Elsewhere in Europe

    While Germany and Austria have received a lot of extreme weather coverage, that doesn’t mean other parts of Europe were inundated by snowfall. As far south as Greece, refugee children took it as an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors with a snowball or two. Switzerland, Slovenia, Italy and Turkey also received their share.

    Author: Lewis Sanders IV

Strong winds of up to 70 kilometers an hour are expected in the foothills of the Alps, while in the Bavarian Forest speeds could reach 100 kilometers an hour. Snow drifts are to be expected, according to the German weather service DWD.

The icy weather disrupted flights at airports including in Munich and Frankfurt, with around a hundred flights canceled on Friday.

law/sms (AP, dpa)

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