PARIS – A quarter of flights out of Paris have been canceled, Belgium is suffering record traffic jams and high-speed trains are stuck in stations — all because of a sudden dump of oddly late snowfall on Western Europe.
Less-prepared for the kind of heavy snow that regularly hits northern and eastern neighbors, France, Britain and Belgium struggled Tuesday to assure transport amid the frosty conditions.
Paris airport screens flashed with red warnings after the French civil aviation authority ordered 25 percent of flights out of Charles de Gaulle Airport canceled, and 20 percent of flights out of Orly Airport.
Office buildings in the French capital — like those in the European Union's capital, Brussels — were only partly full. The French train network SNCF urged commuters in the Paris region to stay home Tuesday instead of trying to reach downtown "because of the unfavorable evolution of weather conditions."
Instead of the onset of spring, Belgium had a record 1,600 kilometers of traffic jams during morning rush hour as snowdrifts turned roads slippery and reduced vision. A strong wind made conditions even tougher.
Thousands of commuters were left stranded on snowed-in platforms after many trains from Belgium were canceled, including some of the Thalys high-speed trains to France, Germany and the Netherlands.
In southeastern England, snow and ice stranded hundreds of motorists as temperatures plunged to as low as minus 3 Celsius (27 Fahrenheit), and many motorists abandoned their cars. Traffic backed up for 30 miles (50 kilometers) in some spots, with reports of people being stranded for 10 hours or more.
Among those stuck was a group of 120 German students who had to stay overnight in the town hall at Hastings on the south coast of England when families set to pick them up could not reach them.
Police in Sussex reported responding to more than 300 auto collisions in 24 hours because of slippery roads but no serious injuries were reported. Scores of schools in southeastern England closed because of severe weather.
Roads around northern France were blocked by snow or closed by transport authorities, and trucks were banned from several routes.