Dec 27, 2014 1:29 PM

Snow, ice sweep Europe, stranding drivers

The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) Snow and icy weather swept through parts of Europe on Saturday, stranding drivers overnight and leaving thousands of homes without power in Britain.

Snow also covered parts of Switzerland and southwestern Germany, and more than 20 centimeters (nearly eight inches) of snow has fallen in higher parts of Germany's Black Forest.

Many motorists in Britain were forced to abandon their cars or were trapped in vehicles for hours after becoming snowed in. Dozens of people traveling from Sheffield to London spent the night in a church after their bus became stuck.

Parts of northern England saw 11 centimeters (4.3 inches) of snow. Western Power Distribution said 36,000 customers were without power, and another 69,000 had short interruptions to supplies. Staff worked through the night to reconnect customers, but thousands in the East Midlands region were still affected.

Liverpool's John Lennon Airport and Leeds Bradford International closed late Friday as workers cleared snow from the runways. The airports have reopened.

British weather forecasts predict more snow showers, mainly in the north, though the main threat would be ice on roads.

The snow was welcomed in the French Alps, which have seen hardly any since the start of the ski season. But with up to 60 centimeters (2 feet) predicted this weekend above 2,000 meters (yards) altitude, one of the busiest vacation weeks of the year looked more promising if drivers could reach the mountains.

Traffic jams snarled many of France's major highways on Saturday, with more than three-quarters of the country under severe weather watch. Only 7,000 drivers of 36,000 expected were able to reach their destination in Savoie, one of the Alps regions, according to the Interior Ministry. Emergency shelters have been set up along the way for potentially thousands who are going to be forced to stay on the road overnight.

In the north, the port of Calais closed because of wind gusts.

Snow and ice led to a roughly 20-kilometer (12.5 mile) traffic jam on the A8 highway near Stuttgart in southern Germany.

Parts of Germany's south and west saw more than 10 centimeters (4 inches) of fresh snow, helping some ski areas which had been struggling.


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