Police reported some 900 weather-related accidents in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia alone in the early morning hours. One person died in Münsterland and 64 suffered serious injuries, according to the police.
Drifting snow and icy conditions also caused problems in the southern state of Bavaria, leading to kilometre-long traffic jams and dozens of accidents.
An icebreaker failed to reach the Baltic Sea island Hiddensee late on Monday evening, forcing authorities to use helicopters to replenish dwindling food supplies and return trapped holidaymakers to the mainland.
The German Weather Service (DWD) on Tuesday warned the storm front “Miriam” was likely to pound the northwestern part of the country with high winds and heavy snow. At least five to 10 centimetres of the white stuff is expected at lower elevations and mountainous regions could be blanketed with 20 centimetres within the next 12 hours.
“Making things worse over the course of the day will be the increasingly brisk wind, which will bring strong gusts to lower-lying areas and stormy gusts to the mountains,” said DWD meteorologist Marcus Beyer.
The western regions might see the snow turn to sleet and rain later on, increasing the risk of ice after temperatures plunge on Tuesday night. This could also cause trees and branches to collapse under the added weight.
The heavy precipitation will reach the southern half of the country overnight, meaning driving conditions are likely to be treacherous nationwide on Wednesday morning.
The DWD said conditions were likely to remain changeable over the next few days with temperatures ranging on either side of freezing mark.