Winter storms hit Europe with avalanche threat over the Alps

Storm surge sweeps across northern Germany

Storm surge moves in

Storm system Benjamin saw floods waters rush across parts of northern Germany and the Netherlands. In Hamburg, the world-renowned fish market was submerged under water.

Storm surge sweeps across northern Germany

Dangerous floods

According to Germany's federal maritime agency, a storm surge occurs when flood waters exceed 1.5 meters (5 feet). The agency said that in Hamburg, water levels had already reached 1.88 meters by 5 pm local time (1600 UTC).

Storm surge sweeps across northern Germany

Heading for safety

Ferry services to Helgoland and other German islands were suspended ahead of the surge. But one ferry worker was caught in the storm and had to swim to reach part of the port on Borkum.

Storm surge sweeps across northern Germany

Ride the tide

While some avoided the storm, others took it as an opportunity for adventure. Kite surfer Marcel Konkel was of the latter. He took to the water to enjoy the winds ahead of the storm's full force. But meteorologists warned that gale-force winds reaching more than 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph) were soon to come.

Storm surge sweeps across northern Germany

Damaged goods

Although there has yet to be a damage assessment, authorities have prepared for the worst. In some areas, tow trucks had to be used to pull inundated vehicles out of flooded areas.

Austria has issued its highest warning for avalanches while food had to be trucked into an Alpine village in Bavaria for residents stuck in their homes. At least 14 people have died, and more snow is forecast.

Schools stayed closed in mountainous parts of Austria and Germany on Wednesday as warnings of avalanches were made for several regions. Hundreds of people stayed in their homes due to blocked roads.

Food was trucked into the Berchtesgaden neighborhood of Buchenhöhe in the Alps near the Austrian border southeast of Munich for the 350 residents unable to leave their homes because of the snow. 

Residents were encouraged to clear snow from the roof of their houses

Roads were blocked leading to a 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) traffic jam near Munich on Wednesday. There were power outages in some areas after snow-laden trees took down power lines. Some buildings collapsed from the weight of the snow on the roof. One man was badly injured when he fell from his roof in Turrach, Austria, while shovelling snow. 

Snow on and around Schliersee in Bavaria

A 62-year-old teacher was one of the 14 people to have died in the last week due to the extreme weather. He was killed while skiing in Mariazeller Bürgeralpe in Austria when he fell and got buried in a snowbank.

The bodies of four skiers have still to be retrieved after they were caught up in a 300-meter (990-foot) wide avalanche that hit a valley near the northern Norwegian city of Tromsoe last week. 

Eleven German hikers were snowed in without electricity and little food over the weekend in a cabin near Salzburg before being rescued on Monday. 

Avalanche warnings

The Austrian Weather Service and the European Avalanche Warning System warned that some parts of Austria have reached a level four warning on the European Avalanche Warning scale. 

Related Subjects

Six German teenagers emerged alive from an avalanche that engulfed them on Wednesday in the Austrian Alps, police said.

The 16- and 17-year-olds were skiing at the Wildkogel resort in the province of Salzburg when they were swept away by the edge of an avalanche.

Two skiers were completely buried, two were partially stuck in the snow, and two were hit by the snow but not buried, according to police.

Fellow members of their group and other skiers immediately located and rescued them.

Wind slabs can be released easily above the tree-line, even by a single skier, in areas where it is difficult to see because of the weather.

Heavy snow in southern Germany, Austria

Deadly weather

Deadly winter storms have torn through parts of Europe, leaving at least 14 people dead in Germany, Austria and Norway. Authorities have warned skiers to avoid the slopes due to the danger of avalanches. But even with calm on the ground, meteorologists have suggested the worst is yet to come.

Heavy snow in southern Germany, Austria

Snowed in

Vehicles in a car dealership in the Bavarian town of Schongau were covered in snow on Sunday. The German Weather Service has issued a storm warning and cautioned people regarding avalanches and snow-related damages, for instance falling tree branches.

Heavy snow in southern Germany, Austria

Backed up

Fallen trees diverted cars on a German motorway near Siegsdorf, a Bavarian town located about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the Austrian border. Traffic towards Munich was backed up for 15 kilometers as firefighters and road workers cleared the trees.

Heavy snow in southern Germany, Austria

Streets closed

A road in central Austria was closed to both vehicles and pedestrians because of avalanche danger. Thousands were stranded at ski resorts in the northern part of the country as authorities closed several roadways.

Heavy snow in southern Germany, Austria

Snow day

Children dressed in bright costumes walked along the snowy streets in the southern German town of Lengenwang on Saturday. Several school districts canceled lessons on Monday due to the snowy conditions.

Heavy snow in southern Germany, Austria

Salzburg snowed under

The Austrian region of Salzburg raised the avalanche threat to the highest level on Wednesday. Authorities are expected up to 80 centimeters of fresh snow in the northern Alps by Wednesday evening.

jm/sms (AP, Reuters)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.