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Hundreds of drivers spend night on Autobahn as Germany’s snow chaos continues

Long traffic jams built up on motorways in several regions of Germany due to the freezing conditions, leaving hundreds of people stranded in their cars.

Hundreds of drivers spend night on Autobahn as Germany's snow chaos continues
A traffic jam near Bielefeld on Monday evening. Photo: DPA

The worst log jam came on the A2 motorway outside Bielefeld, in North Rhine-Westphalia where an enormous 37 kilometre line of traffic built up on both sides of the road on Monday night. The queues stretched all the way into the state of Lower Saxony and had still not been cleared by Tuesday morning.

The A2 was blocked in both directions due to trucks coming to a standstill in the snow and not being able to get out. Police reported that hundreds of drivers had to spend the night in their cars.

Video footage showed shivering drivers huddled in their vehicles, complaining of going for hours without food as temperatures plunged to minus 12 degrees Celsius.

“The whole situation is tough, we are trying to work on a solution,” a police spokesman said on Tuesday morning.

In Bielefeld, a man was found dead on a snow-covered road on Monday, though emergency services said initial findings suggested he had suffered a medical emergency.

IN PICTURES: Snow and bitterly cold temperatures hit Germany

Another scene from the A2 near Bielefeld. Photo: DPA

Further down the A2 at Dortmund the motorway was also blocked after hundreds of haulage trucks broke the law banning them from driving after 10 pm and got stuck in the snow. 

“The police registered 350 breaches of the law,” a spokesperson confirmed.

There was also traffic jams in Brandenburg, where two lorries slid across the slippery surface of the A10. Both lorries were jammed perpendicular to the road and could no longer move.

Good news came for drivers who had been stuck on a stretch of the A4 in north Hesse for 15 hours. Police reported that the road there had been cleared. But traffic was still moving slowly while police moved from truck to truck waking drivers who’d fallen asleep.

Major transport problems

Intercity train travel meanwhile continues to be heavily restricted. There are no services from Hamburg to Munich, or Hamburg to Cologne.

The train service connecting Saxony’s two major cities – Dresden and Leipzig – is also closed.

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, some 20 car accidents were reported during a day of heavy snowfall. Fortunately, only one injury was reported.

Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer appealed to people in northern and central Germany to stay at home until at least Wednesday. 

“In such extreme conditions, even the best gritting vehicles will reach their limits,” the CSU politician said on Tuesday. 

“We are working on all fronts to ensure that we get the north-south roads free – so that we can at least drive with restrictions,” he said.

“A new weather front is forming: a small one, but it's very fierce,” Scheuer said. “On Tuesday and Wednesday we will get a lot of snow on the Baltic Sea and near Rügen, along with stormy conditions.”

Enjoying the snow on the Maschsee in Hannover. Photo: DPA

In much of Germany though, snow will give way to frost in the coming days. In central and eastern Germany, night frost of -18C will not be uncommon, weather forecaster Martin Jonas predicts.

With the wind chill factor, temperatures could feel as low as minus 30 degrees at night, forecasters have said.

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WEATHER

What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

Parts of Germany will see another heatwave this week as temperatures soar.

What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

The German Weather Service (DWD) has predicted that the mercury will climb in some regions of to around 34C this week. 

“After low pressure ‘Karin’ gave parts of Germany rain, sometimes in large quantities, high pressure ‘Piet’ is now back in pole position,” said meteorologist Lars Kirchhübel of the DWD.

This high pressure zone will dominate the weather in large parts of western and central Europe over the coming days, the weather expert said, adding that it will reach Germany too. 

On Monday temperatures remained fairly cool across the country after a weekend of showers, but they are set to climb over the course of the week, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday. Forecasters predict it could reach 32C in Stuttgart and 33C in Cologne on Thursday. Locally, temperatures could reach 34C. 

However, from the Oder and Neisse rivers to the Erzgebirge mountains and southeast Bavaria, denser clouds and some showers are to be expected. This is due to a high-level low pressure system over the Balkan region, according to forecasters. Short showers are also possible in the Black Forest.

“In most of the rest of the country, high ‘Piet’ will be able to hold its ground,” said Kirchhübel.

READ ALSO: Heavy rain in Bavaria swells rivers, but flooding avoided

At the end of the week, thunderstorms are forecast but temperatures are expected to remain high. 

August in Germany ‘too dry’

According to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, August as a whole – apart from a few areas in eastern Germany – will be too dry compared to the multi-year average.

The Black Forest, the High Rhine and the Allgäu to the Bavarian Forest, however, are not expected to have any major problems due to the high rainfall of the past few days.

“Looking at Rhineland-Palatinate, the southern half of Hesse, the western half of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Franconia shows a different picture,” said Kirchhübel. In the last 30 days, only about 10 percent of the usual level of precipitation fell in some places.

“At some stations, no precipitation at all has been measured in August,” added Kirchhübel, referencing Würzburg as an example.

Rainfall at the weekend caused the water in the Rhine river to rise slightly. In Emmerich, the water level reached a positive value again after the historic low of the past few days: in the morning, it showed three centimetres – an increase of six centimetres compared to the previous day.

The water level also rose by several centimetres at the other measuring points in North Rhine-Westphalia: in Cologne, the level rose to 80cm and in Düsseldorf to 38cm.

READ ALSO: Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

Despite this encouraging trend, the Waterways and Shipping Authority said it did not expect a huge improvement in water levels in the foreseeable future due to more hot weather coming.

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