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Sub-zero spring sows chaos across Europe, US

Wednesday March 27, 2013 - 11:44 EDT

Freak blizzards and freezing weather over the first few days of spring have hit Europe and parts of the United States, causing fatal cases of hypothermia, power outages and transport chaos.

In Poland five people have died from exposure since spring arrived on March 21 with overnight temperatures plunging to a bone-chilling minus 24 Celsius.

The latest death toll pushed the total death toll this month to 25.

Bad weather has also claimed at least two lives on the British mainland, where media have dubbed the unseasonably icy month "Miserable March."

The military was called into action on Tuesday to air-drop fodder to farms cut off by freak snow as thousands of homes remained without power for a fifth straight day.

A Royal Air Force (RAF) helicopter was deployed in Northern Ireland in a bid to reach remote farms where up to 10,000 animals are believed to have been buried beneath snowdrifts six metres high.

British bookmakers used to offering bets on a White Christmas now say a White Easter this weekend is more likely than not.

And in south-west Scotland, the Isle of Arran was still without power following Friday's unseasonal snowfall that brought down power lines.



In the United States, where a huge spring storm dumped several inches of snow from St Louis to the East Coast and grounded hundreds of flights on Monday, temperatures were struggling to climb back to normal in most areas.

Nearly a week after the spring equinox, huge swathes of the United States remained deep in winter's clutches. Temperatures hovered well below freezing and snowploughs and shovels were pulled back out of sheds.

A March chill hovered over large sections of the south and the Midwest, but the mercury was bouncing back along the east coast. In Washington, temperatures were expected to hit 15C by the weekend.

Back in Europe, Ukraine's capital Kiev was still feeling the effects of Monday's record-breaking snowfall, which saw residents skiing down city streets as drivers fumed in vast traffic jams.

Up to 15 centimetres of snow also blanketed Romania, shutting down schools and hampering road traffic in three regions, including the capital Bucharest.

Deadly black ice coated roads in Croatia while ferry services on the Adriatic had to be suspended because of high winds.

No injuries were reported as violent winds tore the roof off a supermarket in the eastern Czech city of Sternberk.

Both Austria and Belgium saw temperatures plunge to record lows, with forecasters warning the unseasonable cold snap is expected to last past the Easter weekend.



AFP


- ABC

© ABC 2013

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