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Winter wallops Europe, takes a holiday in Northwest

European shippers say that they are losing millions of dollars a day because of a rare three-week freeze of one of Europe’s key waterways, the Danube River, which flows for 1,785 miles through nine countries.

The Danube was frozen solid in the Serbian capital of Belgrade on Friday. One of the port officials called the freeze, “one of the worst such occurrences in at least 400 years.”

Eastern and central Europe have been hit hard with heavy snow and very cold weather. Ukraine was the worst hit as overnight low temperatures have dropped to near minus 30 degrees. In Serbia, more than 70,000 people were cut off due to snow and ice.

Within the past two weeks, snow has also been falling in Rome. The unusual storm in early February was Rome’s biggest snowstorm since 1986. Snowfall totals of up to 20 inches were reported in places north of the Italian city.

Travel conditions in Great Britain came to a near standstill. Nearly 6 inches of new snow fell across parts of London on Feb. 4. Hundreds of flights were canceled at London’s Heathrow Airport. Temperatures fell into the teens and 20s in parts of rural central England.

The extreme cold was felt as far south as northern Africa. Rare snows fell in the Sahara Desert in January and early February.

By contrast, much of the northern U.S. and southern Canada have seen less snowfall than normal. At the Spokane International Airport, only 20.8 inches of snow has fallen for the 2011-’12 season. The normal to date is just over 37 inches.

We appear to be in a new weather pattern that looks to be wetter than normal between now and the middle of April.

La Niña hasn’t died off yet in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. It’s likely that temperatures will be near normal during the next couple of months. However, with the increasing solar activity, it appears that much of the moisture that falls at elevations below 3,000 feet will be in the form of rain. Above the 3,000 foot level, additional snow is expected, which is good news for skiers and snowboarders.

The period between April 15 and June 15 is expected to be much milder and drier than a year ago, as La Niña heads into “climatological oblivion” later this spring.

The summer looks to be quite warm, actually hot at times, with less precipitation than normal. I’m already cleaning my golf clubs.

If you have any questions or comments, you can contact Randy Mann at