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Freezing temps bring Europe traffic chaos, smog, avalanche

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 18, 2021

By Vanessa Gera Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland – Extreme cold has hit large parts of Europe, with freezing temperatures cracking railroad tracks in Poland, snow blanketing the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul and smog spiking as more coal was being burned to generate heat.

In Switzerland, a skier who had been buried by an avalanche over the weekend died in a hospital of his injuries, authorities said Monday.

The country had issued avalanche warnings several days earlier after heavy snowfall. Officials said the skier and his two companions were buried by an avalanche while skiing off marked trails in the Gstaad area on Sunday. One man freed himself from the snow and then extricated one of the others, but the third man could only be found by rescue crews, who arrived later.

Temperatures dropped to minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit in some Polish areas overnight, the coldest night in 11 years. Many trains were delayed on Monday after tracks at two Warsaw railway stations cracked.

Hand-in-hand with the cold came a spike in smog in Warsaw and other parts of Poland, as the cold prompted an increase in burning coal for heat. Air pollution levels were so high in Warsaw that city officials urged people to remain indoors.

Just across Poland’s southwestern border, the Czech Republic experienced the coldest night this year with temperatures dropping below minus 4 degrees in many places.

The lowest temperature – minus 16 degrees – was recorded Monday in Orlicke Zahori, a mountainous village 100 miles east of Prague near the Polish border.

The freezing weather was expected to be replaced by heavy snowfall in the northeastern Czech Republic, the institute said.

Wintry weather and freezing temperatures were reported throughout the Balkans, which has created problems with power supplies in Serbia and brought some snow even to Croatia’s Adriatic Sea islands.

In Istanbul, traffic was brought to a halt by the layer of snow covering the city, with cars stalled or skidding on the roads.

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