Weather gods wreak havoc in U.S. & Europe

Written by admin on December 21, 2009 – 3:18 pm -

If your immediate travel itinerary includes a train trip on the Eurostar, you’d better make alternative reservations and hope. Eurostar has announced it’s suspending service indefinitely until the company is able to rectify the most recent problems that caused trains to break down and passengers to be stranded. With Christmas only days away, more than 55,000 passengers’ trips have been canceled.

Saturday was chaos as 2,000 passengers were evacuated from six trains. People were trapped in the Channel Tunnel for up to 16 hours, after condensation caused a series of electrical failures, on Friday night. The stranded passengers had to walk through the darkened tunnel.

Eurostar chief executive Richard Brown has said, “We won’t  resume services again until we’re  sure trains can get through safely. We want to understand what caused this unprecedented breakdown.”

But getting anywhere in Europe may not be easy. Cold snap wreaks havoc across Europe as the EU is experiencing some of the coldest temperatures in recent history. Mother Nature isn’t cooperating with the travel gods. In France, 40 percent of flights out of Paris’s Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports were canceled as a second wave of snowstorms hit northern France.

Airports in Duesseldorf, Germany, Belgium’s Charleroi, Liege and Brussels airports were also closed due to heavy snow. Severe delays and cancellations were reported at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.

In the U.S., airports in the Washington, DC area were closed on Saturday. The region experienced the largest snowfall ever recorded in a single December day. New York area’s airports were closed for a portion of the weekend and passengers were advised to access airlines’ websites before heading to the airport.

If you happened to be in much of the East Coast, even if planes were flying, passengers may not have been able to get to their flights. The mayors of Washington and Philadelphia and the governors of Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland and Delaware declared states of emergency. There simply wasn’t enough equipment to cope with the areas’ accumulated snow.

In West Virginia, blankets were given to hundreds of drivers and some motorists were stranded on highways for up to 27 hours, according to Red Cross spokesman Jeff Morris.

A massive snowstorm headed north to New England and blizzard warnings were still in place in some parts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island on Sunday. A record number of car accidents have been recorded during this period.

So many people have been stranded on the roads, in trains and airports that this December will go down in transportation history as one of the worst ever. If you’ve been a victim of the weather, please post your comments. Could transportation officials have done a better job? If so, how?

Karen Fawcett is president of Bonjour Paris.

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Cold, stranded and in Paris

Written by admin on January 7, 2009 – 12:23 pm -

This past week has sent chills and freezing temperatures throughout Europe and Paris experienced something it rarely (if ever) does.

Snow brought traffic to a halt. People were stranded and even the Eiffel Tower was closed for a couple of days. A few metro lines weren’t functioning. Paris doesn’t have snow removal trucks because snow is essentially an enigma.

People were forced to walk and some Parisian children who’d never seen REAL snow were able to fulfill a fantasy. While school was canceled, they built snowmen and even threw snowballs – ever so much fun for the uninitiated.

It was time to bundle up since Paris’s temperature plummeted to below  -9 degrees Celsius (15 degrees Fahrenheit). That’s a record low for the City of Light. It’s so cold that the police are turning people away and not allowing them to enter the Luxembourg Garden. In my 20 years of living in Paris, this is a first.

Utility companies in France and throughout Europe were operating at full tilt and there were some power failures. The count still isn’t in as to how many people died because the lack of heat.

Passengers were stranded at Paris’s Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport. Heavy snow last Monday forced Air France to cancel 150 out of 400 scheduled flights from Roissy. Three thousand passengers had  to stay at nearby hotels while another 2,000 people camped out in the airport’s terminals.

Ironically, flights in and out of Paris’s second airport, Orly were operating on schedule.

Global warming appears to be taking its toll on the highs and lows of temperatures throughout the world and the joys of travel.

If you were stuck in Paris (or another EU airport), please post your experiences.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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