After three years sans snow, Paris got hit twice this week. The city doesn’t do snow plows, and the novelty of icicles on the Eiffel is wearing off. Even city birds seem to be shivering. “Global warming I care about, but look outside,” offered a denizen of the 8th District.
“Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” is fine at Christmas. But in post-holiday Europe, bus engine oil is freezing in Norway. Ireland reports the lowest temperature in 50 years. In Britain, the Army got called out to tow drivers caught in snow drifts, amid possible government gas rationing and fireside chats by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who is turning into the nation’s weather comforter-in-chief.
Satellite imagery shows the UK swathed entirely in snow, looking like a baby Greenland.
“Snowfall is expected to be heavy,” warned the French meterological service today, “even exceptional” -- as 600 trucks waited for a major artery to be cleared.
Europeans are adjusting to stymied access to work, closed schools, downed power lines, road diversions, salt shortages, canceled sports events, and life indoors – where media weather reports also include the plummeting mercury in the US, concern for the Indian River citrus crop in Florida, and passenger trains in China being dug out of snow drifts as cities like Beijing are recording unusual amounts of the white stuff.
As temps fall, hyperbole rises
Only last year, Europe’s severe winter freezing was called the worst in memory. This year’s snows are described as the worst in a generation. The terminology of meteorology rises every time the temperature falls. But heavy ongoing snowfall in north Europe, and rain clouds rising from the Mediterranean – reinforced with continent-wide arctic gusts and tornado talk in the Balkans – are delaying planes, automobiles, and especially trains.
The Eurostar from Paris to London, a two-hour commute for many, broke down in the tunnel under the English Channel. Again. The problem: Snow gets sucked into the engine, shorting out the electrical systems.
They are working on it. British government minister Chris Bryant, caught in the offending train, twittered in exasperation: "I am rapidly developing a very severe hatred of Eurostar as we are traveling at about a mile a year."
The company doled out hot chocolate and apologies, and towed the train out, as Eurostar Ltd. also said it was reducing service by half, and asked people not to travel if possible.
The sustained sub-zero temperatures have perhaps hit homeless persons and migrant workers in transit the worst. Thousands of trucks have been stranded by the side of the road, one main source of transportation for movement among migrants. There’s a lot of “huddling” going on in migrant centers, according to news reports. The Irish Times describes deaths of homeless in Poland, Britain, Germany, along with 22 persons that perished after avalanche in the Swiss Alps.