Snow chaos paralyzes Austria

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Heavy snowfall led to extensive traffic disruptions in large parts of Austria on Saturday. Deep winter driving conditions caused issues in the far west—Vorarlberg and Tyrol—and Upper and Lower Austria. In Tyrol, there were also disruptions to rail services and the power supply. In a nightclub in the Vorarlberg town of Dornbirn, 91 people were trapped for five hours after a landslide.

The ÖAMTC reported deep winter road conditions, especially on the northern and eastern sides of the Alps. With repeated traffic jams and accidents, numerous main routes were difficult to pass on Saturday morning. Motorways were also affected, with vehicles getting stuck, making road clearance work more difficult. For example, the Westautobahn (A1) near Salzburg Nord was impassable on Saturday morning due to truck recovery work. The situation on the Tauern highway (A10) was not much better; the Katschberg tunnel had to be closed at short notice in the southbound direction. In Tyrol, the Brenner road (B182) near Gries was closed due to stuck vehicles, and there were also obstructions on the A13, the Brenner highway, due to snowfall. Because of the weight of the snow, trees were repeatedly snapped – fire departments and clearing services worked nonstop.

“Stay at home”
The onset of winter also kept the emergency services in Upper Austria busy. The provincial fire brigade command has completed 659 operations since midnight alone, and 364 of the 900 fire brigades in the province of Enns were in action by mid-morning, according to an initial assessment on Saturday. Most of the operations involved vehicles that got stuck and massive snow pressure that cut power lines. Netz OÖ said around 26,000 households were without power at around 10 a.m.
“Please stay at home and avoid unnecessary journeys by car,” appealed Hannes Niedermayr from the Upper Austrian State Fire Brigade Command (LFK) in an APA interview. From the central region to the Innviertel, the emergency services are already “pretty stressed.” Trees toppled by the snow blocked roads across the country and tore down power lines, and vehicles had to be recovered in all districts. The nationwide power outages alone are tying up the forces. The LFK has issued an order to staff the bases “in a feasible strength” during blackouts so that the population can seek help there. In the Braunau district, the duty officer described the situation as “intense” regarding operations. “And it’s only the morning,” emphasized Niedermayr.

Numerous accidents
Due to fresh snow and so-called drift snow, the avalanche warning level rose to “considerable.” Despite the wintry driving conditions, the police caught a total of 45 drunk drivers and six drivers under the influence of drugs during priority checks on Saturday night, as reported in a press release.

One of the accidents caused by slippery snow also blew the fuses of a 32-year-old drunk driver in Braunau. A man of the same age in the car behind him skidded at a traffic light due to summer tyres and lightly touched the car. The drunk driver got out, grabbed the local, and punched him in the face with his fist.

Overnight, 50 centimetres of fresh snow or more fell in many places in the mountains, which is why the second-highest avalanche warning level was declared due to the conditions. This is related to locations above the tree line or 2,000 meters above sea level. Spontaneous avalanches were possible at any time and could endanger exposed areas. The avalanche warning services of the federal states described the often weak bond between new and old snow as problematic. Winter sports enthusiasts were urged to exercise extreme caution.

91 people were trapped in a restaurant
Due to the heavy snowfall, a landslide occurred in Dornbirn-Gütle at around 4 a.m., which displaced parts of Ebniterstraße and the parking lot of the “Conrad Sohm” nightclub. This made it impossible for the 91 patrons to leave the area. The people were fine, and there was no danger, according to the city of Dornbirn, early Saturday morning. As soon as safe passage across the parking lot is possible, the evacuation of the building will begin, and work will be in full swing.

In Tyrol, sections of the Brenner highway (A22) had to be closed due to vehicles stuck there, but it was passable again on Saturday morning. The Roppen tunnel on the Inntal highway (A12) was also impassable due to a power failure. Not only is the tunnel without power, but also households in 19 communities. According to ORF Radio Tirol, Sölden in Ötztal was also affected.

According to ÖBB, there were interruptions to rail traffic between Imst and Schönwies in the Landeck district and between Innsbruck and Scharnitz. The railway line between St. Margrethen in the Swiss canton of St. Gallen and the German border town of Lindau (Bavaria), which runs through Vorarlberg, was also closed. The reason for this was an overhead line fault in Lindau.

The snow roller also hits Vienna
Almost all of Austria can expect snowfall today. It had already started snowing in Vienna during the night. Most snow is in the western districts, where up to 20 cm is possible.

Numerous operations in Lower Austria
The heavy snowfall on Friday and the night to Saturday in Lower Austria meant the fire departments had to be called out to rescue around 170 vehicles in the past 24 hours. For example, a tanker truck overturned on the B36 in the district of Melk, according to fire department spokesman Klaus Stebal. Around 70 call-outs were recorded due to fallen trees and shrubs.

In the Amstetten district, the wintry conditions led to almost 30 operations, according to the district fire brigade command. The fire brigades were mainly called out to recover vehicles and storm operations, for example, because trees were blocking the road.

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