Europe Snow, Storms Kill 14, 2 Missing; Avalanche Risk High

Pam Wright
Published: January 9, 2019

The threat of avalanches kept communities in the northern Alps on edge Tuesday after a series of storms pummeled Central, Eastern and Northern Europe with heavy snow, killing at least 14.

The latest storm, referred to as Winter Storm André by European meteorologists, left several dead over the weekend and trapped hundreds of tourists in alpine villages.

On Monday night, 11 German hikers were rescued by mountaineers from a cabin near Salzburg, Austria, after having been snowed in without electricity and food since Friday.

A 62-year-old teacher was killed while skiing in Austria when he fell and became buried in a snowbank.

Romanian police say they found the frozen body of a 67-year-old man in a carpark Tuesday in the city Slatina after he was reported missing on Monday.

A 28-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman who went missing while snowshoeing were found dead near Salzburg in central Austria. Rescuers are still searching for two others who went missing while snowshoeing near Hohenberg, in Lower Austria, the Associated Press reported.

Three skiers were killed over the weekend,by avalanches in Austria and a woman who was buried by an avalanche last week in Switzerland died of her injuries Saturday.

A young Swedish woman and three Finnish skiers are presumed dead in Norway after a large avalanche hit near the Norwegian city of Tromsø. Attempts to recover the bodies of the skiers has been hindered by poor visibility and continued heavy snowfall, the AP reports.

Two other people were killed in weather-related incidents, including a 44-year-old man who was hit by tree branches that came down under the weight of the snow in Wackersberg, Bavaria, Germany, and a young woman killed in an avalanche in Bavaria's Teisenberg mountains.

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The Hochkar alpine road and the entire Hochkar skiing region in Lower Austria were closed because of the high risk of avalanches. Residents and visitors were asked to leave the region by the end of the day.

About 600 residents and tourists were cut off in villages in the Styria region of Austria when roadways became impassable. Other villages in the Alps have also been cut off by snow-blocked roads.

Travel in the region has been crippled by the heavy snowfall, with numerous train connections halted and hundreds of flights canceled.

Numerous roadways, including major highways, are closed because of the treacherous conditions. Crashes have been reported in numerous locales throughout Europe as a result of the storm.

Some ski resorts have reported up to 7 feet of snow in higher elevations, forcing some resorts to close.

Authorities say they are monitoring for possible avalanches. The mountain rescue service and the German Alpine Association warned against ski or hiking tours in unsafe areas. The avalanche danger in the southern Alps is at Level 4, the second highest warning level.

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The threat of avalanches prompted the Austrian railway company OeBB to suspend several connections, the AP reports.

Authorities in the Salzburg, Austria, region warned against off-trail skiing, noting that "many large, several very large avalanches are likely in the afternoon and overnight" that could affect roads and rail lines.

Even before communities have a chance to recover from the weekend storm, authorities are gearing up for yet another winter lashing by a new storm they are calling Benjamin.

"An amplified jet stream has been in place over Europe featuring a sharp, southward dip in the jet stream over portions of central and eastern Europe," said meteorologist Linda Lam. "This pattern has resulted in a series of storms impacting these regions. The next low pressure system will track southeastward through eastern Europe through midweek."

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