Authorities scramble to improve winter driving conditions

Winter is setting in, with more snow and sleet expected in coming days, meanwhile authorities scramble to secure de-icing salt supplies and tighten lax winter tyre rules.

Authorities scramble to improve winter driving conditions
Photo: DPA

The German Weather Service (DWD) reported on Wednesday that temperatures would hover around freezing in the coming days, with frosty nights and snow and sleet common across the country.

Things could brighten a little around the middle of next week, the DWD added.

After struggling through last winter’s dire shortage of de-icing salt, many cities and municipalities seem to be better prepared, though. Many parts of Germany have stocked up, according to a survey published Wednesday by the ACE automobile club.

Meanwhile, Germany’s upper house of parliament or Bundesrat is set to vote on Friday to pass new regulations cracking down on the failure to use winter tyres, with the new rules to take immediate effect.

Under the country’s current highway code or Straßenverkehrsordnung, only cars fitted with winter, mud-and-snow or all-weather tyres are allowed on the roads when there is “black ice, slush, snow or ice on the roads.”

But the present rules are vague about what defines a tyre as being winter-suitable. A ruling from the Transport Ministry, following EU guidelines on the issue, has specified that a winter tyre has a minimum tread-depth of 1.6 millimetres. Even that won’t quite satisfy the ADAC motor association, which says a tyre requires a tread of at least 4 millimetres to stop effectively on snowy roads.

Under the new rules, drivers caught using their summer tyres in ice, snow or slush will have to pay a €40 fine— up from €20 in previous years. Anyone caught obstructing traffic with inappropriate tyres during the difficult winter season being slapped with an €80 fine.

On the salt issue, the ACE automobile club said most cities were boosting their supplies following a random survey of 27 cities about their stocks and orders.

Last winter, the auto club accused some cities of slashing their salt orders to save money and thereby failing to fulfill their obligations to keep roads safe.

Some municipalities, however, were banking on milder temperatures – in contrast to the latest weather predictions – and had stopped ordering supplies. Others had arranged new, more flexible salt delivery agreements in case the winter turned especially harsh.

The cities of Gera in Thuringia and Kiel in Schleswig-Holstein, for instance, had each doubled their supply compared with last year to 1,200 tones. Koblenz raised their stock from 500 to 900 tonnes and kept an option with their supplier to take another 1,500 tonnes if need be.

Mainz raised its order from 420 tonnes to 720 tonnes. Stuttgart, however reduced its order by 5 percent, ACE reported.

DPA/The Local/dw/rm

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Weather: Germany sees extreme heat and storms

An extreme heat warning was in place for eastern Germany on Monday, while storms were also set to hit the country.

Weather: Germany sees extreme heat and storms

The German Weather Service (DWD) said temperatures could reach 36C on Monday. 

In the morning, the DWD issued an extreme heat warning for eastern regions, as shown below in the map. 

Map of Germany shows the heat warning in the east on Monday June 27th.

Photo: German Weather Service (DWD)

Forecasters said later on Monday, the south and east of the country would be hit by thunderstorms as well as large hailstones, strong winds and heavy rain.

READ ALSO: Germany sees record temperatures

In the north, west and centre of Germany, forecasters predicted clouds and some showers. Over the course of Monday, heavy thunderstorms with heavy rain, hailstones and strong winds are also possible in the north.

“Thunderstorms have occurred in the past few days and will continue in the coming days, as the established weather situation will remain virtually unchanged,” said a spokesperson from the DWD. 

However, the large temperature differences are striking: in the west of Germany, the mercury will only reach just above 20C in places.

Overnight to Tuesday, the DWD predicts thunderstorms – some of them heavy – from the Baltic Sea to the Alps, and later there is set to be more showers. It could still reach 28C in some places, especially in the east.

The DWD said: “The risk of thunderstorms will remain in the southern half of the country, while the northern half will calm down after the last thunderstorms have moved to Poland.

“This will change again on Wednesday night, when showers and thunderstorms, some of them thundery, as well as heavy rain will make their way north. On Wednesday, it will be quite unsettled with muggy temperatures almost all over the country.”

Forecasters said the weather will remain changeable for the rest of the week, but it should become more settled from next weekend.