SHARE
COPY LINK

WEATHER

Shivering Europe hopes for weekend respite as deep freeze persists

Europe's deep freeze, which has cost more than 60 lives over the past week, continued to wreak havoc early on Saturday as the shivering continent awaited a sliver of weekend respite from a brutal Siberian cold front.

Shivering Europe hopes for weekend respite as deep freeze persists
Icicles hang on a bench in a bay in the village of Attersee, Austria on Wednesday. Photo: Wolfgang Spitzbart
After heavy snowfall and deadly blizzards lashed Europe, conditions marginally improved in some regions on Friday — although temperatures generally remained sub-zero, forcing more major delays on roads, railways and at airports.
 
But Britain's Met Office said the Arctic temperatures were set to rise.
 
“After the extreme weather many of us have seen recently many will see conditions ease a little through the next few days,” it said.
 
In France, the forecast this weekend was for rain rather than the kind of heavy snowfall that has blanketed vast tracts of Europe.
 
The deadly chill has been caused by weather blowing in from Siberia. British media have dubbed the front “the Beast from the East,” while the Dutch have gone for the “Siberian Bear” and the Swedes plumped for the “Snow Cannon”.
 
Over the past week, the freezing conditions have claimed more than 60 lives, according to an AFP toll, including 23 in Poland, seven in Slovakia, six in the Czech Republic and five in Lithuania.  Other deaths were recorded in Spain, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway.
 
France has seen at least nine weather-related deaths, including four skiers killed by an avalanche on Friday in the Alps, which have seen particularly heavy snowfall. A 41-year-old Libyan man was found dead in an empty train carriage in the
western French town of Saintes. Police suspect he died of hypothermia, but could not be sure.
 
In Austria meanwhile, five migrants abandoned by smugglers were rescued from a motorway near the city of Graz on Friday, some of them walking barefoot in sub-zero temperatures, according to police.
 
Switzerland has seen the mercury plummet to records of up to -40C (-40F) in the ongoing blizzard, which has even covered usually balmy Mediterranean beaches with a blanket of snow.
 
Geneva's busy airport announced it had re-opened shortly after midday Friday “despite the unfavourable meteorological conditions”, having warned earlier it faced staying shut for a second consecutive day as snowstorms continued to lash the Swiss city. Airport authorities warned, however, of further “delays and cancellations”.
 
Italy was also still stuck in sub-zero temperatures with a number of major roads blocked because of snow and black ice as forecasters warned the country's northern and central regions would see little immediate improvement. Many schools remained closed and local authorities told people to remain indoors unless they urgently needed to travel.
 
Elsewhere in Europe, Serbia and Croatia saw some improvement but two people died overnight in Poland as temperatures plunged to a low of -27C (-16.6F). They were set to remain as low as -17C across the day in some areas even as forecasters spoke of a relative weekend thaw.
 
Folldal, a small village in central Norway, saw a record European low for recent days of -42C during the night. Even so, residents used to harsh conditions were sanguine.
 
“Life is generally ongoing,” mayor Hilde Frankmo Tveren quipped to broadcaster TV2.
For members

SWISS CHEESE

‘Critical situation’: Drought threatens Switzerland’s cheese production

The long dry spell has impacted much of the country’s agriculture, including the production of milk and cheese in some Swiss regions.

‘Critical situation’: Drought threatens Switzerland’s cheese production

It is difficult to imagine Switzerland without its cheese, but the heatwave and lack of water is playing a part in this worst-case scenario, with even the iconic Gruyère under threat. 

Usually, Swiss cows spend the summer high up the mountains, grazing on Alpine pastures until they are brought down – sometimes with a bit of local ceremony – from the mountains onto the plain in the fall.

But this year’s heatwave  and drought have disrupted this traditional process – with parched meadows running short of both grass and water, forcing farmers in canton of Vaud to bring their cattle to the lower ground in the middle of summer.

Vaud agricultural authorities estimate that 60 out of Jura’s 200 mountain pastures are “in acute lack of water” and even though the canton is supplying water to the breeders, “the unprecedented heatwave will in any case affect the production of milk and cheese”, Le Temps daily reported.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why are cows so important in Switzerland?

The situation is similarly dire in the canton of Fribourg, where the famous Gruyère cheese has been produced for centuries.

“The situation is tense, even critical”, according to Frédéric Ménétrey, director of the Fribourg Chamber of Agriculture, who said that 15 alpine pastures that are inaccessible by road are being supplied by private helicopters.

With “lack of water and dry grass”, milk production could be reduced by “20 to 30 percent”, Said Dominique de Buman, president of the Fribourg Cooperative of Alpine Cheese Producers.

This also means that less Gruyère will be made this year and, if heatwaves and droughts become a standard summer weather, “we must reflect on how to adapt the alpine economy and agriculture to global warming”, Éric Mosimann, manager of the Vaud Society of Alpine Economy, pointed out.
 
 READ MORE: How Switzerland is protecting its cheeses from foreign influence

SHOW COMMENTS