Science, Tech & Environment

Winter weather chaos in Europe

Major winter storms canceled dozens of flights across Europe during one of the busiest times of the year as travelers tried to get to their destinations ahead of the holidays. Heavy snow and freezing temperatures forced airlines in France, Belgium and Germany to cancel all or most of their flights. Laura Lynch has more.

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Given the all too predictable and in many cases justifiable angry reactions that are easy to find at any London airport, rail station or clogged snowy roads, I decided to go somewhere where the weather might just be making people happy.

At Somerset House in central London, the open air ice rink is filled with happy sounds and smiling faces.

�The weather's great. It's nice and Christmassey.�

And yet, even here, even in this picture postcard scene, Clare � who didn't want to tell me her last name � is having trouble getting into the spirit of things. There's a good reason for that.

�It's beautiful, but very trying for us because we're trying to fly,� she said.

In fact, Clare, her husband and three children went to Leeds airport on Friday night en route to Montreal for a long-awaited ski holiday. At 3 in the morning, they were put on a bus to London to catch another flight. On Saturday, that flight was canceled. They had to wait in line for 10 hours to reschedule. Clare said they're hoping to fly tomorrow.

�The way that they've handled the travelers who have lost their slots is appalling, especially when there's only three or four desks open to reschedule for thousands of people.�

Weather conditions have been bad across much of northern Europe. But the biggest impact has been at Heathrow airport � the busiest international hub in the world. On Saturday, a blizzard dumped more than five inches of snow in an hour. Today, with one runway operating crews were still struggling to clear the rest of the tarmac.

London's mayor, Boris Johnson, said he, like many, is fed up.

�A couple of days after the snow fell it can't be beyond the wit of man, surely, to find the shovels, the diggers, the snow ploughs or whatever it takes to clear the snow out from under the planes, to get the planes moving and to have more than one runway going. i don't want to get into a blame game, i'm sure everyone's trying very, very hard, but all i say from my point of view as mayor is that people are going to want to see our major international airport moving properly pretty soon.�

Johnson is right about that � stranded passengers are making their increasingly angry views known via Youtube as they wait, and wait for a flight.

�At the biggest airport in Europe, right? The biggest hub. It's a total failure. I'd like to be with family and I'm not. you know, a little bit of snow, nothing like the U.S. and we can't handle it,� one man said.

Another man said, �In Chicago, they wouldn't even notice this, this wouldn't stop anything. And i don't understand why the world's largest airport can't handle an inch of snow.�

More than an inch actually, but who's counting now? What's more important are the forecasts for both the weather and for travel schedules.

Frigid air looks set to stay through Christmas Day and there is talk of more snow. As for travelers, things aren't likely to return to normal until well after that.

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