The brutally cold weather that has plagued most of Europe for more than two weeks has killed more than 450 people. Though mother nature’s icy grip on the continent has relaxed lately, temperatures are still far below seasonal norms. And that has put Europe’s transportation system under increasing stress.
Heavy blankets of snow have closed highways and isolated villages in the Balkans. The Danube River is so packed with ice that the vital commercial waterway is closed from Austria to the Black Sea. Further north, in Germany, much of the canal system has been closed due to ice. Last Friday, the link between the canals and the Rhine River, Europe’s busiest waterway, was frozen shut, effectively stranding northern industrial sites.
The cold is doing more than snapping temperature records—it’s also playing havoc with daily life. Last week, drivers on the autobahn near Frankfurt were stuck in a 10-km long traffic jam when a truck carrying sauerkraut spilled its load after being involved in a multi-vehicle accident. The pickled cabbage froze instantly and formed such a bond with the highway surface that it took four hours for emergency workers to scrape away the mess.