Europe Hit By Record Low Temperatures
An Arctic storm dubbed the “Beast from the East” saw temperatures across much of Europe fall to their lowest level this winter and even brought a rare snowstorm to Rome, paralysing the city and giving its residents the chance to ski, sled and build snowmen in its famous parks and piazzas.
Rome’s schools were ordered closed, while train, plane and bus services were crippled after the first snowfalls in the Italian capital in six years.
Overnight, Rome saw its first snowfall since February 2012, with about three to four centimetres settling on the ground.
Italy’s civil protection agency even mobilised the army to help clear slush-covered streets as a city used to mild winters was covered by a thick blanket of snow.
“Beautiful, beautiful!” marvelled Roman resident Ginevra Sciurpa, who donned a fur hat and thick scarf to brave the cold. “Even though I’m not a child anymore, the enthusiasm for the snow is still the same. It is always beautiful, and above all I didn’t have to go to work.”
By noon the snow had all but melted, but freezing temperatures expected overnight prompted officials to close Rome schools for a second day and warn of continuing traffic and train chaos due to the ice that was already forming on slick cobblestone sidewalks and streets.
Parks that usually stay green through winter were blanketed white, giving eager Romans a rare opportunity to go sledding, snow-shoeing or skiing. Even the Circo Massimo became a hotspot for snowball fights, while Piazza Navona, with its famed Bernini fountains, turned into a snow-dusted winter wonderland.
Rome’s Mediterranean climate and proximity to the sea usually result in mild winters, such that restaurants often keep outdoor seating open, albeit with space heaters, even through the coldest months of the year.
Elsewhere in Europe, the storm set dangerously low temperatures: Lithuanian officials said temperatures that plunged to as low as minus 24 degrees Celsius in some places were to blame for the deaths of at least three people over the weekend. Hospitals in Lithuania and Latvia have reported an uptick in people being treated for hypothermia and frostbite. Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven’s car skidded off the road in a snowstorm north of Stockholm and smashed into railing, one of several snow-related traffic accidents in Sweden. He was uninjured.
Meteorologists in Germany, meanwhile, reported a record low for this winter of -27 C on the Zugspitze mountain in the Alps. Moscow, as well, recorded its coldest night this winter, with the mercury dipping to nearly -20 C on Sunday night.
In France, where temperatures were forecast to drop to minus 10 C and feel as low as minus 18 C over the coming days, fears ran high for people living on the streets.