Rare Snowfall Blankets Rome

Rare Snowfall Blankets Rome

ROME (AP) -- Romans woke up to a rare snowfall Monday, 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 decided to deploy 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's Mediterranean climate and proximity to the sea usually result in mild winters, such that restaurants often keep outdoor seating open even through the coldest months of the year. As a result, the Monday morning snowfall, though not huge in quantity, brought excited young Romans out to play in the snow or walk in the slush.

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

Elsewhere in much of northern and central Italy, the storm also closed schools and disrupted transport.

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.

Meteorologists are forecasting unusually low temperatures for early March. Roman Vilfand, chief of the Russian Meteorological Office, told the Interfax news agency that Muscovites should brace themselves for frosty weather in early March and could only "count on the warmth of the soul," not higher temperatures outside.

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.

About 1,000 Croatian soldiers have joined efforts to clear the snow in the worst-affected areas where more than 1.5 meters (about five feet) of snow have been reported.

Towns along the Adriatic coast have also been hit by strong winds which also hampered sea traffic toward the islands. Only the southern part of the coast recorded temperatures above freezing on Monday morning.

Snow and freezing temperatures have a grasp on some parts of Germany as meteorologists reported a record cold for this winter of -27 C (-16.6 Fahrenheit) on the Zugspitze mountain in the Alps.

The German Weather Service said Monday that the overnight temperatures were also low in the south and east of the country, where they went down to -15 C (5 F) in parts. It was slightly warmer in the northeast, but traffic there came to a halt in some regions because of heavy snowfall.

The German news agency dpa reported that in the northern city of Bremen, at least 10 flights were canceled due to snow, and along the Baltic coast in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, several cars crashed on icy streets, injuring at least four people.

(KA)