For safety reasons, long-distance trains will not be running until further notice, a DB spokesperson told the German Press Agency (DPA) on Thursday afternoon.
“This is a necessary security measure because the disturbances caused by the storm are so serious that we simply cannot get long-distance trains through,” the spokesperson added. But trains that are still currently running should travel as far as possible to their destination.
DB have asked customers to postpone rail travel if possible as a significant reduction in services is expected for Friday.
Three people have so far died due to the hurricane – deemed the strongest hurricane in Germany in over ten years. In the Rhine region near Emmerich, a 59-year-old man was killed instantly when a tree in a camping site fell on top of him.
A 68-year-old man in North Rhine-Westphalia lost control of his transporter among high winds and fell into oncoming traffic. In Thuringia, a firefighter was killed by a falling tree.
Due to damage caused by 'Friederike,' train services across North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony had already been discontinued earlier in the day on Thursday.
In North Rhine-Westphalia trains will not run until at least 3:00am on Friday, a DB spokesperson said. This applies to regional and long distance train services.
Hotel and taxi vouchers will be distributed to travellers. There will continue to be “considerable problems” in the flow of rail traffic on Friday as well, added the spokesperson.
Tens of thousands of people are likely to be affected as regional train services in North Rhine-Westphalia alone transport around one million people each day.
In Rhineland-Palatinate, train routes on the lines Mönchengladbach-Koblenz, Wesel-Koblenz and Koblenz-Cologne have been halted for the time being, DB said.
In the north, the Hamburg-Berlin rail line was closed on Thursday around noon. There have also been also restrictions on the Hamburg-Lübeck route. DB has reduced the speed on the routes between Wolfsburg and Berlin as well as Hanover and Würzburg.
After wintry conditions affected streets and caused accidents in parts of the country on Wednesday, the German Meteorological Service (DWD) expected strong winds to sweep through the country on Thursday and has issued severe weather warnings.
As predicted, storm ‘Friederike’ on Thursday brought gale-force winds along with it. In the afternoon a DWD spokesperson said it had reached hurricane strength with wind speeds of up to 130 km/h.
Wind speeds were predicted to range from 50km/h to 70km/h in the north and up to 120km/h or 140km/h in the middle of the country.
At high altitudes the winds are expected to be even more severe – in the Harz mountains, wind speeds of up to 160km/h are expected.
The states predicted to be most affected are: Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, Saxony, and Bavaria.
Along with the strong winds, slippery roads may also be an issue as a result of the storm. In regions where the storm is expected to be strongest, meteorologists recommend to avoid being outdoors and warn against uprooted trees, falling roof tiles and damage to scaffolding and power lines.
Schools in areas around the Harz and in Hesse and in North Rhine-Westphalia cancelled classes on Thursday.
Munich Airport announced on Thursday morning that it had cancelled eight flights to and from Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Cologne due to the storm. A spokesman for the airport said that further flight cancellations could also occur during the course of the day.
Meanwhile several airports also cancelled flights or experienced delays. Ten flights were cancelled at Düsseldorf Airport. At Cologne-Bonn Airport, two long-haul flights were postponed by about three hours.
The harsh weather follows snow, rain and ice which affected rush hour in several regions in Germany on Wednesday morning as motorists, pedestrians and cyclists had to deal with slippery roads.
Two accidents due to slick conditions involving trucks in North Rhine-Westphalia meant that motorways had to be temporarily closed on Wednesday. Roads in the Detmold area and near Duisburg also had to be closed due to heavy snowfall and hail. In the Dortmund area and in Hamm the police were called to the scene of numerous traffic accidents.
Weather-related road accidents were also reported in Lower Saxony around Wilhelmshaven and Westerstede, in Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse and Schleswig-Holstein.