Snow and ice cause travel chaos, grounding flights at Cologne’s airport

Snow and ice has been causing chaos in western Germany, resulting in more than 1000 weather-related traffic incidents in North Rhine-Westphalia, and it even grounded flights at Cologne/Bonn airport.

Snow and ice cause travel chaos, grounding flights at Cologne's airport
A grounded aircraft at Cologne/Bonn airport on Thursday. Photo: DPA

According to local newspaper the Rheinishe Post, police said 14 people had been seriously injured in accidents from Wednesday to Thursday morning while 63 had suffered less serious injuries.

Heavy snowfall interrupted traffic at Cologne/Bonn airport Thursday morning. A spokeswoman said that no take-offs and landings were possible from 9:15 a.m. onwards.

About two hours later, the airport announced via Twitter that flight operations were restarting. They added that delays could continue throughout the day.

Runways had to be cleared of snow. When the closure happened, a spokeswoman said their winter care service was doing “everything so that we can continue soon”.

According to the airport, 16 flights – including 10 take-offs and six landings – had to be cancelled by noon. A total of 214 flights had been planned for Thursday.

Passengers wait at Cologne/Bonn airport during a snow storm. Photo: DPA

Total of 1079 traffic accidents

In parts of western Germany, heavy snowfall started again this morning after extensive snow yesterday. In Wuppertal, the zoo had to close down.

Between Wednesday and Thursday morning there were a total of 1079 traffic accidents in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) caused by snow and ice. Police said the damage to property in the accidents would likely amount to around three million euros.

On Thursday morning there were traffic jams in NRW over a total length of over 350 kilometres.

“The traffic situation was tense,” a police spokesman told the Rheinishe Post. Many commuters left early, which led to full motorways from 6.30 a.m. onwards.

Video below from RP Online shows the traffic chaos on Thursday.

In Mönchengladbach the city gritters and had been in operation since 3 a.m. However, it took until 8.30 a.m. for all streets with the highest priority to be cleared of snow. 

In Düsseldorf, gritting vehicles were on the roads from 2 a.m. to clear almost 1400 kilometres worth of roads, footpaths and cycle paths.

Bonn was covered in deep snow. Within three hours, police recorded about 30 snow-related accidents on Thursday. The gritter trucks often could not get through because of the many traffic jams.

The video below from WDR shows the traffic jams in NRW caused by the winter weather.

In Wuppertal, public transport, especially buses, had problems due to the weather conditions on Thursday, especially on hills. Meanwhile, the Bergisches Stadt zoo was closed to the public. Heavy snow and slippery paths on the steep slopes were too high a risk for visitors, the city announced.

A woman walking in a snow storm in Cologne Thursday. Photo: DPA

Rhineland-Palatinate also hit by winter weather

However, it wasn't only in NRW that travellers had to deal with the winter weather. In Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland snow and ice caused several problems and delays in the morning rush hour. There was also snow in the central state of Hesse.

Rhineland-Palatinate police reported 50 weather-related accidents in the area and urged drivers to be cautious.

A tree lying on the road at Kordel, Rhineland-Palatinate. Photo: DPA

On Thursday, up to five centimeters of snow was likely to fall in total, the German Weather Service (DWD) said. Later on, forecasters said it would likely snow again overnight in many places, warning that snowflakes could turn to freezing rain, increasing the danger of slippery roads.

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What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

Parts of Germany will see another heatwave this week as temperatures soar.

What temperatures can we expect in Germany this week?

The German Weather Service (DWD) has predicted that the mercury will climb in some regions of to around 34C this week. 

“After low pressure ‘Karin’ gave parts of Germany rain, sometimes in large quantities, high pressure ‘Piet’ is now back in pole position,” said meteorologist Lars Kirchhübel of the DWD.

This high pressure zone will dominate the weather in large parts of western and central Europe over the coming days, the weather expert said, adding that it will reach Germany too. 

On Monday temperatures remained fairly cool across the country after a weekend of showers, but they are set to climb over the course of the week, particularly on Wednesday and Thursday. Forecasters predict it could reach 32C in Stuttgart and 33C in Cologne on Thursday. Locally, temperatures could reach 34C. 

However, from the Oder and Neisse rivers to the Erzgebirge mountains and southeast Bavaria, denser clouds and some showers are to be expected. This is due to a high-level low pressure system over the Balkan region, according to forecasters. Short showers are also possible in the Black Forest.

“In most of the rest of the country, high ‘Piet’ will be able to hold its ground,” said Kirchhübel.

READ ALSO: Heavy rain in Bavaria swells rivers, but flooding avoided

At the end of the week, thunderstorms are forecast but temperatures are expected to remain high. 

August in Germany ‘too dry’

According to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, August as a whole – apart from a few areas in eastern Germany – will be too dry compared to the multi-year average.

The Black Forest, the High Rhine and the Allgäu to the Bavarian Forest, however, are not expected to have any major problems due to the high rainfall of the past few days.

“Looking at Rhineland-Palatinate, the southern half of Hesse, the western half of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Franconia shows a different picture,” said Kirchhübel. In the last 30 days, only about 10 percent of the usual level of precipitation fell in some places.

“At some stations, no precipitation at all has been measured in August,” added Kirchhübel, referencing Würzburg as an example.

Rainfall at the weekend caused the water in the Rhine river to rise slightly. In Emmerich, the water level reached a positive value again after the historic low of the past few days: in the morning, it showed three centimetres – an increase of six centimetres compared to the previous day.

The water level also rose by several centimetres at the other measuring points in North Rhine-Westphalia: in Cologne, the level rose to 80cm and in Düsseldorf to 38cm.

READ ALSO: Damaged freighter blocks traffic at drought-hit Rhine

Despite this encouraging trend, the Waterways and Shipping Authority said it did not expect a huge improvement in water levels in the foreseeable future due to more hot weather coming.