Germany braces for more snow as extreme winter weather causes travel chaos

Blizzards and very low temperatures have caused chaos in parts of Germany over the weekend. And more is forecast this week.

Germany braces for more snow as extreme winter weather causes travel chaos
A snowy scene in Erfurt Thuringia early on Monday morning. Photo: DPA

After the severe onset of winter in many regions of Germany over the weekend, extreme weather is expected to continue on Monday.

On Sunday night, the German Weather Service (DWD) warned of heavy snowfall with around 10 to 25 centimetres of fresh snow expected in the first half of the day in the centre of Germany.

Northeast Hesse, Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt are particularly affected. A warning for heavy snow was issued on Monday for these areas. Other states are affected by very low temperatures, ice and snowfall too, including Berlin and Brandenburg.

As this tweet by DWD shows, temperatures dropped sharply overnight, with the lowest recorded at the Brocken. in the Harz mountain range in Saxony-Anhalt, with -16C.

Federal Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer, of the conservatives, advised people in Germany affected by the snow chaos to stay at home at the beginning of the week.

READ ALSO: Weird weather – temperatures between -7C and up to 20C expected in Germany

Drivers stuck in snow

The snow has resulted in trucks and cars becoming stuck in traffic jams on Germany's Autobahn network for several hours, while gritting vehicles cannot get through.

On some stretches of road, especially in the centre and east of the country, there's been chaos with huge traffic jams.

On Monday morning lorries were stuck on the Autobahn after after heavy snowfall, including in the north and east of Hesse on the A4 and A7.

“The situation is catastrophic,” said a police spokesman in Fulda in the morning. In some places, trucks and cars were stuck in traffic jams for over six hours.

Authorities have warned people against travel in affected regions, and have urged lorry drivers not to drive on the Autobahn.

Lorries stuck near Gera on Monday. Photo: DPA

Disrupted rail services and cancellations

“Snow and ice will continue to affect local and long-distance DB traffic in large parts of the country on Monday,” rail operator Deutsche Bahn said. Travellers have been asked to “use DB's numerous information channels to find out about their connection before setting off”.

DB offered refunds for people affected by cancelled services, or a chance to rebook the journey.

A heavy blizzard caused traffic chaos in parts of Germany on Sunday. In some places, more than 30cm of snow fell, in addition to drifts. The police and fire brigade were called out several times.

There were major restrictions on regional and long-distance rail services, while a Bundesliga football match had to be cancelled.

The DWD had last week warned of a winter weekend of extremes, with the lower half of the country seeing mild temperatures, and the northern half experiencing extreme winter weather.

On Saturday it remained fairly calm. As a precaution, all long-distance trains between Hamburg and Kiel, Hamburg and Lübeck and between Hamburg and Westerland were cancelled over the weekend

READ ALSO: What happened in Germany's catostrophic winter of 78/79?

On Sunday, however, weather chaos set in. Here's a rundown of some major incidents across the country so far:

– The police had to close icy roads and there were hundreds of accidents. Trains were cancelled due to frozen overhead lines. As we mentioned above, cars and trucks have been getting stuck in deep snowdrifts.

– A train with about 25 passengers was stranded at the Hundertwasser railway station in Uelzen, Lower Saxony. Rescue workers from the German Red Cross (DRK) arrived late on Sunday to provide the passengers with blankets and hot drinks. The passengers were not able to continue their journey until Monday morning.

– In Thuringia, a family of three got their car stuck in the snow. According to police, the vehicle came to a standstill near Sömmerda on Sunday evening. The family tried for hours to free the car from the snow and finally dialled the emergency services around midnight. The parents and their seven-year-old daughter had to be rescued by the fire brigade and were taken to an emergency shelter.

An icy train in Hanover, Lower Saxony. Photo: DPA

– In Braunschweig, the fire brigade recovered a tram carriage that had fallen off the rails due to snow. The wagon belonged to a special vehicle with a snow plough, which was being used to try and get rid of the masses of snow, a fire brigade spokesperson said. Rescue workers used a truck-mounted crane to lift the wagon, which weighed several tonnes, back onto the track. According to the fire brigade, snowdrifts up to 70 cm high were piling up in the Braunschweig area.

– In Duisburg, the fire brigade had to be called in because five houses directly on the Rhine were cut off from the outside world by the snowdrifts.

– Several cities in Hesse completely suspended bus services, including in Kassel and Marburg an der Lahn.

– In Berlin there are restrictions on the Autobahn network, with people told not to drive faster than 60km/h. Extremely slippery conditions are to be expected on the capital's roads.

What can we expect from the weather this week?

A low pressure area dubbed “Tristan” coming over central Europe and the central Mediterranean, together with high pressure area “Gisela” from Scandinavia, will bring further icy air to Germany this week.

READ ALSO: Why Germany is facing extreme winter weather this month

“After the snowy and windy weekend, the big cold snap is now coming at us from the east,” said meteorologist Simon Trippler of the DWD on Sunday.

Snow is still to be expected, although it will not fall as heavily as at the weekend, he said. On Tuesday, the snowfall will mostly recede, except on the coast. Low temperatures are expected for the rest of the week.

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Living in Germany: Long-distance train boost, confusing kitchens and Hanover highlights

In our weekly roundup about life in Germany we look at plans to invest in the train network, the perplexing lack of kitchens in German flats, the arrival of Herbst and some cool things about Hanover.

Living in Germany: Long-distance train boost, confusing kitchens and Hanover highlights

German long-distance travel set for modernisation programme

There are some really positive things about train travel in Germany, but there is definitely lots of room for improvement. So we were glad to report this week that Deutsche Bahn is planning a €19 billion modernisation programme. The operator says that an extra 450 high speed – or ICE – trains will be added to the country’s network in the coming years. CEO Richard Lutz said the aim is to invest in “the trains of the future”, and even unveiled new double-decker models that will include special office cabins and family areas. The aim is to encourage people to leave their car at home and take the train. Let’s hope that punctuality gets better along with the style of trains. And there is good news when it comes to local public transport: German transport ministers plan to thrash out a plan next month for a €9 ticket successor. Although details are thin on the ground at the moment, it is likely to cost €49 and will be valid on buses, trains and trams throughout local transport networks. 

READ ALSO: How did train travel in Germany get so bad?

Tweet of the week

We relate to English footballer Georgia Stanway, who plays for Bayern Munich, and her confusion about German flats being rented out without a kitchen.

Where is this?

Pumpkins being taken by boat.

Photo: DPA/ Patrick Pleul

You know it’s Herbst (autumn) in Germany when the pumpkins are out in force. This photo shows Harald Wenske steering a Spreewald barge fully loaded with pumpkins across the water. The 72-year-old also grows potatoes, horseradish and beets in addition to pumpkins on his farmland, which is surrounded by waterways. Now is the time when you’ll start to see Kürbis (pumpkin) on the menu everywhere. 

READ ALSO: 10 ways to enjoy autumn like a true German

Did you know?

Situated on the River Leine, Hanover is the capital of Lower Saxony, which has a state election coming up on October 9th. But did you know it is also home to the World of Kitchens museum (or das Küchen-Museum), the first of its kind in Europe? The museum houses a cafe and cooking school, and features dozens of real kitchen exhibits from different cultures and eras starting from the Middle Ages. Visits to the museum are only possible with pre-booked guided tours, but are well worth it for food and history lovers.  Either at the end of your tour or before, make sure to indulge in traditional German cake and coffee at the Museum’s Schloss Cafe. While in Hanover, you should also check out the Royal Gardens of Herrenhausen, the New Town Hall and Eilenriede Forest. 

Thanks for reading,

The Local Germany team

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