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Europe Prepares for Arctic Blast, Delays at Heathrow

Europe is bracing itself for more snow and freezing temperatures that are likely to disrupt transport and hamper shoppers in the run up to Christmas.

Heavy drifting snow and widespread icy roads are expected to descend across Europe today starting in parts of Scotland and Germany, European weather agencies reported.

Worst affected areas in the U.K. could see up to eight inches (20 centimeters) of snow tomorrow, the U.K.-based Met Office, a state-funded agency, said in a severe weather warning today. Germany will likely record its coldest December in 40 years, German-based N24 television meteorologist Alexander Hildebrand reported today.

“Given the fact that we’re going to see quite a rapid change and a fall in temperature there is the potential for some disruption to travel networks,” said Met Office spokesman John Hammond by phone. “We could see ice forming on untreated roads and pavements, coinciding with the drive home for many people this evening.”

In general, accumulations of up to four inches in the U.K. are forecast, by the Met Office. All schools are closed in Shetland and some in Orkney and Aberdeenshire, according to local U.K. government websites. Some rail services are suspended in the Highlands.

The German Weather Service issued snow and freezing rain warnings for northern Germany with snow forecast for much of the rest of the country.

‘Stormy winds’

A weather front from the North Sea “will bring heavy snowfall” and “stormy winds” that will lead to drifting, the Weather Service said on its website. Snowfall will begin in southern Germany late today or early tomorrow, the report said.

Strong winds and rain are causing delays and cancelations to flights at London’s Heathrow Airport, BAA Airports Ltd. spokesman Stuart Butchers said by phone. Heathrow’s Airport Operations Team is on standby to handle the conditions.

Flights in and out of Edinburgh Airport, London’s Gatwick and Frankfurt airport are operating as normal.

Temperatures are predicted to plunge to as low as minus 13 Celsius (8.6 Fahrenheit) in parts of Scotland tomorrow, the Met Office said. In London temperatures will fall to minus 5 Celsius and in Berlin they are forecast to drop as low as minus 10 Celsius tomorrow, according to the Global Weather Platform.

The Met Office issues weather warnings when there is at least 80 percent confidence that severe or extreme weather is expected, the state-funded agency said.

N24 footage showed falling snow with traffic flowing on the A1 highway that runs north-southwest from the Baltic Sea to the western city of Saarbrueken.

Salt Supplies

The City of Cologne, Germany’s fourth largest with a population of almost 1 million, is running out of salt needed to grit roads and make them passable, N24 television reported.

Most of Germany can expect a White Christmas this year, the Meteorology Institute of Berlin’s Free University said today in an e-mailed statement. In Berlin and the surrounding eastern state of Brandenburg there is likely to be more snow on the ground on Dec. 25 in over 100 years, the statement said.

The travel plans of millions of people across Europe were affected earlier this month when heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures grounded airplanes, halted trains and turned highways into parking lots. The snowfall was the earliest to blanket the U.K. since 1993 and the worst hit areas were South London, Sussex, Kent and Hampshire, which received as much as 8 inches of snow.

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