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WEATHER

Storm Egon leaves two dead, thousands without power

Storm "Egon" swept across Germany on Friday with hurricane-force winds and snow, leaving at least two drivers dead, thousands without power and more than 100 flights cancelled.

Storm Egon leaves two dead, thousands without power
A truck driver braves the snow storm in Saxony to go to a driver with a broken down vehicle. Photo: DPA.

SUMMARY:

  • Egon is blowing over Germany from the west and brought hurricane-force winds to Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate.

  • By Friday morning, Egon had already covered parts of Germany in snow, uprooted trees and shut down streets.

  • The German Weather Service (DWD) says that certain areas may get up to 30cm of snow within hours.

  • Frankfurt, Leipzig, and Dresden airports have cancelled flights.

  • One driver died in an accident, likely due to slippery roads, in Schleswig-Holstein. Another driver was also reported as killed in a weather-related accident in Hesse.

End of live blog, 5.20pm: The Local followed the damage caused by the storm throughout Friday, but now it's time to wrap up the live blog as we head into the weekend.

Dozens have been injured in weather-related accidents – at least two of which were deadly – and neither weather nor rail services have yet given the all-clear about stormy conditions.

Thousands in Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria were left without power, while children in various parts of the country were unable to make it to school.

Frankfurt Airport cancelled 125 flights, while Dresden and Leipzig airports also had some cancellations.

Click here to see more photos of the damage throughout the day.

Looking to the weekend, the DWD expects more snow in many areas, especially in mountainous regions like the Alps. And drivers are warned to be cautious of black ice on roadways.

Here's a look at the Saturday forecast below, and stay safe!

Another fatality reported, 3.20pm: Near Fulda in Hesse, a 21-year-old driver was killed when he tried to overtake another driver on a “glass-like” roadway, according to Hessenschau.de. His car started to swerve and he hit another oncoming vehicle. The 70-year-old woman in the other car was lightly injured.

No 'all-clear' for train travellers yet, 3.15pm: In various parts of the country, train travel has been delayed due trees falling onto tracks and other obstructions caused by the storm. A railway spokesperson told Bild newspaper at about 3.15pm that they could not yet give travellers the all-clear.

“Our colleagues are working at full speed to retrieve fallen trees from platforms, repair overhead wires, and make the routes drivable again,” the spokesperson said.

“We cannot completely give the all-clear to passengers because the snow front is still underway.”

2.15pm: The roofs of some houses have been damaged in the storm, including the one pictured below in Hanau, Hesse.

Photo:DPA

And the one below in Stuttgart.

Photo:DPA.

Snowplow drivers battle Egon, 1.30pm: Snowplow driver Uwe Deppe in Lower Saxony tells DPA about his determination to make driving easier amid storm Egon.

“I get every street clear,” Deppe said. “At the end, we always win the battle against snow and ice.”

So far the 60-year-old has been working through the night, and by mid-day there appeared to be no end in sight. Deppe has already driven 400 kilometres on the 10-kilometre stretch he's been clearing between Bad Harzburg and Torfhaus.

“We will drive until the street is black again.”

Uwe Deppe. Photo: DPA.

12.20pm: A driver along the Autobahn 7 in northern Schleswig-Holstein died in an accident, most likely due to slippery roads, police said.

Numerous streets in Bavaria and the Thuringian Forest area were blocked by fallen trees or trucks that were stuck. According to Thuringia officials, these obstacles also meant that schools buses could not bring children to school.

“The situation is chaotic,” said a spokesman from the area of Schmalkalden-Meiningen.

In the Bavarian town of Kirchenthumbach, one school bus was blown by a gust of wind into a roadside ditch, but no one was injured.

12.00pm: Leipzig-Halle and Dresden airports said they had to cancel flights after Frankfurt airport announced the cancellation of 125 flights. Lufthansa flights to Frankfurt had been cancelled from Leipzig, and another flight from Dresden to Frankfurt was also cancelled.

Frankfurt-Hahn airport also reported delays.

An airplane at Frankfurt-Hahn airport. Photo: DPA.

As of about noon on Friday, 6,600 households in Upper Franconia, Bavaria were left without power.

In Baumholder, Rhineland-Palatinate, US military personnel of the Army Garrison in the area were given early release due to the storm.

11.55am: Skiers in the Bavarian Alps were left in the lurch as well due to Egon as ski lifts and mountain cable cars have been completely or partially suspended in some areas, reports local broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk.

The railway and chair lift going up the Zugspitze – Germany's highest mountain – were almost completely suspended, and ski operations have been halted.

11.30am: The DWD posted an image on Twitter showing where German residents can expect to experience the fiercest weather conditions. The more red area means “high risk of bad weather”, while the orange area means “bad weather risk”.

The high risk areas could have 10-20cm of snow and in mountainous areas this could be up to 30cm. The orange areas meanwhile are predicted to get 5-10cm of snow.

11.20am: The major air hub of Frankfurt Airport has had to cancel 125 out of 1,100 flights due to the storm, a spokesperson said. Due to the cancellations, further delays should be expected during the day.

“The storm is so strong that airplane operations must be temporarily halted,” said the airport spokesperson.

In Bavarian Lower Franconia, several school buses could not bring children to school due to the severe weather. Most children were brought to nearby schools instead.

10.30am: The strong winds of Egon have uprooted trees and caused power outages as well as traffic delays in western states like Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate.

A traffic jam in Gummersbach, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA. 

“Since midnight we have had massive problems because of the storm,” said a spokesman from the city of Saarbrücken.

Atop the 554-metre high Weinbiet hill in Rhineland-Palatinate, the wind was measured at speeds of up to 148km/h.

The central state of Hesse has also been hit by the storm with at least 50 emergency operations by 10.30am due to overturned trees and other objects on roadways, a police spokesman for southern Hesse said.

A tree fallen on top of a car in Wiesbaden, Hesse. Photo: DPA.

Egon brought snow to Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia. A stretch of the Autobahn 30 had to be blocked off after a truck overturned due to the snow. The rescue effort lasted until 9am and no one was injured.

The German Weather Service said areas of between 400 and 600 metres high could get up to 30cm of new snow within six hours.

By Friday mid-day, Egon should be heading to Poland.

DWD said that North Rhine-Westphalia and northern Saxony-Anhalt could have massive traffic problems, while in central, southern and northern coastal areas, there could be hurricane-force winds of up to 110 km/h.

A snow-clearing vehicle in Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

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ENERGY

Why sunny weather in Germany can switch off solar panels

The more the sun shines in the southern German town of Aurach, the more likely it is that Jens Husemann's solar panels will be disconnected from the grid -- an exasperating paradox at a time when Germany is navigating an energy supply crisis.

Why sunny weather in Germany can switch off solar panels

“It’s being switched off every day,” Husemann told AFP during a recent sunny spell, saying there had been more than 120 days of forced shutdowns so far this year.

Husemann, who runs an energy conversion business near Munich, also owns a sprawling solar power system on the flat roof of a transport company in Aurach, Bavaria.

The energy generated flows into power lines run by grid operator N-Ergie, which then distributes it on the network.

But in sunny weather, the power lines are becoming overloaded — leading the grid operator to cut off supply from the solar panels.

“It’s a betrayal of the population,” said Husemann, pointing to soaring electricity prices and a continued push to install more solar panels across Germany.

Europe’s biggest economy is eyeing an ambitious switch to renewables making up 80 percent of its electricity from 2030 in a bid to go carbon neutral.

N-ergie thermal power station

The thermal power station of energy supplier N-Ergie in Nuremberg, southern Germany. (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has put a spanner in the works.

Moscow has cut gas supplies to Germany by 80 percent, in what is believed to be a bid to weaken the European powerhouse’s resolve in backing Ukraine.

READ ALSO: OPINION: How many massacres will it take for Germany to turn off Russian gas?

As a result, Berlin has been scrambling for alternative sources across the world to replace the shortfall.

This makes it all the more frustrating for Husemann, whose solar panels normally generate enough electricity for 50 households. With the repeated shutdowns, he suspects they will only supply half of their capacity by the end
of the year.

Grid bottlenecks

Grid operator N-Ergie, which is responsible for harvesting electricity from Husemann’s panels, admits the situation is less than ideal.

There were 257 days last year when it had to cut off supply from solar panels on parts of the grid.

“We are currently witnessing — and this is a good thing — an unprecedented boom in photovoltaic parks,” Rainer Kleedoerfer, head of N-Ergie’s development department, told AFP.

An employee of energy supplier N-ERGIE working at the company's network control centre in Nuremberg, southern Germany. 

An employee of energy supplier N-Ergie working at the company’s network control centre in Nuremberg, southern Germany.  (Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP)

But while it takes just a couple of years to commission a solar power plant, updating the necessary infrastructure takes between five and 10 years, he said.

“The number of interventions and the amount of curtailed energy have increased continuously in recent years” as a result, according to N-Ergie spokesman Michael Enderlein.

“The likelihood is that grid bottlenecks will actually increase in the coming years,” while resolving them will take several more years, Enderlein said.

According to Carsten Koenig, managing director of the German Solar Industry Association, the problem is not unique to solar power and also affects wind energy.

READ ALSO: Reader question – Should I modernise my heating system in Germany?

Solar bottlenecks tend to be regional and temporary, he said. “Occasionally, however, we hear that especially in rural areas in Bavaria, the shutdowns are more frequent.”

2.4 million households

Koenig agrees the problem is likely to get worse before it gets better.

“This will be especially true if political measures aimed at sufficiently expanding the power grid in Germany… drag on for too long,” he said.

Some 6.1 terawatt hours of electricity from renewables had to be curtailed in 2020, according to the most recent figures available.

With an average consumption of around 2,500 kilowatt hours per year in a two-person household, this would have been enough to power around 2.4 million households.

A spokesman for Germany’s Federal Network Agency said it did not share the belief that “it will not be possible to expand the network in line with demand in the coming years”.

Only some aspects of the expansion are seeing delays, the spokesman said — mainly due to slow approval procedures and a lack of specialist companies to do the work.

According to Husemann there have also been delays to the payments he is supposed to receive in return for the solar power he supplies — or cannot supply.

He said he is already owed around 35,000 euros ($35,600) for electricity produced so far this year that has never found its way into a socket.

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