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STORM

Icy Autobahn causes spate of crashes across Germany

Stormy weather has been causing major problems in Germany this week. And now slippery conditions on the road network are resulting in more misery.

Icy Autobahn causes spate of crashes across Germany
A police car on the closed Autobahn 45 near Siegen, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: DPA

Black ice resulted in several accidents and part of the Autobahn being closed on Tuesday night. Drivers have been urged to drive with caution.

In Baden-Württemberg, three people were seriously injured in a collision involving two cars. One of the cars drove into the opposite lane because of the road conditions, according to police.

In the north-east of Bavaria, several highways (A9, A72, A93) were affected by slippery roads and there were a spate of crashes.  In addition, several vehicles broke down in the hazardous conditions. Nobody was seriously injured.

In North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), part of the Autobahn 45 near Siegen, had to be completely closed for several hours during the early hours of Wednesday.

As the slippery conditions happened so quickly, trucks became stuck on uphill roads, and other vehicles were unable to move forward, police reported. There were also several accidents in NRW although nobody was seriously injured.

In Schleswig-Holstein several accidents occurred on Autobahn 7 and Autobahn 23 north of Hamburg. Most resulted in damage to cars and there were no reports of serious injuries. Police said conditions were made worse due to heavy rain. 

A week of stormy weather

It comes after Germany – and other parts of Europe – was battered by storm Sabine at the start of the week.

READ ALSO:

Insurance broker Aon estimated that damages in Germany would total between €500 to €700 million. On Tuesday many places in Germany remained stormy.

According to Deutsche Bahn, trains are on the whole running again without problems, however there is still some disruption. In Baden-Württemberg some railway lines are still closed and in Bavaria the Werdenfelsbahn remains at a standstill.

The German Weather Service (DWD) expects windy and stormy weather to continue on Wednesday. In addition, more rain, snow and sleet showers are expected. In the evening the wind will likely decrease.

Vocabulary

Black ice – (das) Glatteis

Accident – (der) Unfall

Car body damage/fender bender – (der) Blechschaden

Stormy weather – stürmisches Wetter

We're aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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WEATHER

Western Germany braces for second round of severe storms

Parts of Germany are set to be pummelled by heavy thunderstorms on Monday - just days after the city of Paderborn was struck by a devastating tornado.

Western Germany braces for second round of severe storms

The severe weather warning was issued on Sunday by the German Weather Service (DWD), who cautioned residents in western and southwestern regions of the country that fierce gusts of wind, hailstones and heavy rain could once again be on the horizon.

A  second tornado could “not be ruled out” in the southwestern regions of the country, DWD warned. 

In southern and western parts of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse and Rhineland-Palatinate, severe thunderstorms were expected, with heavy rain and strong gusts of wind throughout the afternoon and into the evening.

However, the worst of the thunderstorms are likely to concentrate near the Black Forest in the state of Baden-Württemberg. 

Here, DWD has issued a Stage 3 weather warning – the second highest possible. Severe thunderstorms with gale-force winds at speeds of up to 110km per hour are expected in this region, with up to 50 litres of rain per square metre falling in a short space of time.

According to the meteorologists, the storms will sweep across to the eastern regions of the country and are likely to ease off in the evening.

The warnings come just days after the city of Paderborn in North Rhine-Westphalia was hit by a devastating tornado.

According to the local fire brigade, 43 people were injured in the storm, with 13 of them needing to be hospitalised and one person reportedly fighting for their life. 

Railway services were cancelled across many parts of the west over the weekend, but resumed again on Monday.

Air travel in some parts of the country was also affected, with Frankfurt Airport in the central state of Hesse saying there was disruption to flights on Friday. 

Videos posted on social media depicted the strongest part of the tornado tearing through the city, ripping trees up by their roots.

The damage to infrastructure and buildings caused by the storm is estimated to be in the millions.

Schools remain closed

As of Monday, several schools and nurseries remained closed in both Paderborn and nearby Lippstadt due to fears that the buildings couldn’t be safely entered.

In the small town of Lippstadt alone, five nurseries and seven schools were closed for repairs on Monday, with administrators unable to say when they would reopen their doors.

“Given the extent of the damage we see at the various locations, it is currently unthinkable that classes can be held there in the next few days,” said Mayor Arne Moritz (CDU).

In Paderborn, meanwhile, drones were exploring five closed school buildings to check whether there was a risk of damaged roofs imploding. The streets where the schools are located have been closed off to the public and the police are believed to be patrolling outside to stop anyone entering.

READ ALSO: Tornado in western Germany injures dozens

Damaged roof in Paderborn

A damaged roof in the aftermath of the Paderborn storms. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Lino Mirgeler

More frequent tornadoes? 

Tornadoes aren’t infrequent in Central Europe, but recently appear to be gaining in frequency and intensity, which experts suggest could be a result of climate change. 

In June 2021, a deadly tornado swept through several villages in the Czech Republic near the Slovakian and Austrian borders, killing six people and injuring a further 200. 

At time, climatologists pointed out that until 2020, the Czech Republic only saw a handful of tornadoes each year – and most of them were relatively mild.

Speaking to WDR on Sunday, climate researcher Dr. Mojib Latif drew a direct parallel between warmer temperatures and more violent and regular storms.  

“In Germany there are approximately between 20 and 40 tornadoes per year,” he told the regional media outlet. “We have to reckon with that. As the climate gets warmer and thunderstorms become more violent, the frequency of tornadoes will also increase.”

However, some experts have been more cautious about drawing a direct link.

“That simply cannot be determined at the moment,” meteorologist Jürgen Schmidt told RND. 

Schmidt thinks the perception that tornadoes have increased in recent years could have a slightly more prosaic explanation.

The fact that people are able to record them on their smartphones and share these images more widely could contribute to this impression, he said. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

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