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Snow storm hits Rome as deadly icy spell grips Europe

Temperature forecasts plunged to -6°C in Rome, -20 C in Moscow, -10°C in France; the UK is witnessing the coldest period, the Met department said.

world Updated: Feb 27, 2018 16:10 IST
Agencies, Rome
Italy,Europe,Rome
The Colosseum is seen during a heavy snowfall in Rome, Italy, on Monday. (Reuters Photo)

Romans have awoken to a rare snowfall, after an Arctic storm passing over much of Europe dumped enough snow to force schools to close and public transport to reduce services.

Italy’s civil protection agency has decided to send in the army to clear streets in the capital after the snowfall paralyzed Rome with just a few centimeters (inches) of snow.

Parks that usually stay green through winter were blanketed with snow, giving eager Romans a rare opportunity to go sledding. Even the Circo Massimo became a hotspot for snowball fights, while Piazza Navona, with its famed Bernini fountains, turned into a snow-dusted winter wonderland.

Rome saw its first snowfall since February 2012, with about three to four centimetres (1.2 to 1.6 inches) settling on the ground Sunday. It was zero degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) in Rome on Monday morning, with a low of minus six Celsius forecast until Wednesday — but no more snow is forecast.

Mayor Virginia Raggi signed an ordinance Sunday evening closing public schools as a precaution, and many private ones followed suit.

Roofs are seen covered in snow during a heavy snowfall in downtown Rome. (Reuters)

In the north Italian city of Turin, heavy snow had caused a Serie A football game between Juventus and Atalanta to be postponed on Sunday.

Two people have died of the cold in Poland since Saturday, bringing the winter’s toll to 48 since November, according to the centre for national security.

In France, where temperatures were forecast to drop to minus 10°C (14 degrees Fahrenheit) and feel as low as minus 18 C over the coming days, emergency shelters were opened for the homeless.

Britain’s weather service, the Met Office, issued a yellow weather warning on Monday and amber warnings for Tuesday and Wednesday, with more snow expected in eastern England. “This week looks like being the coldest period we have had in the UK for a number of years,” the Met said on Sunday.

In Moscow, temperatures dropped to this winter’s low despite the approaching spring. The mercury in the Russian capital dropped to nearly -20 C (-4 F) on Sunday night, the coldest this winter, the Meteorological Office said Monday.

Croatia, meanwhile, has been gripped by freezing weather, with even towns along most of the Adriatic coast waking up to temperatures below freezing. The spell of winter weather has closed schools in the northwest, and heavy vehicles were banned from all roads leading toward the coast.

A man walks during a heavy snowfall in Rome, Italy February 26. (Reuters Photo)

In Sweden, where the cold snap coincided with schools’ winter sports break, most were happy to see the snow, with temperatures ranging from minus 5C in Stockholm to minus 20 C in the mountains near Ostersund, where many Swedes were spending ski holidays.

Special cross-country skiing courses were set up in parks in Vienna as temperatures dropped to as low as minus 20 C across Austria.

The Danube river had frozen over in some places, but Vienna authorities warned against skating, saying “there is a large probability that the ice will break”.

First Published: Feb 26, 2018 17:26 IST