Thousands Stranded, At Least Two Dead, In French Alps After ‘Freak’ Snowfalls And Ice

Over 15,000 vehicles are stranded in the French Alps, after a “freak” snow and ice storm hit the area.

Extreme weather conditions in the French Alps have caused traffic jams and backups along the routes leading in and out of the Alpine ski resorts. The Irish Times reports that some families were forced to spend the night in their cars. However, local authorities across four French départements were on orange weather alert, which is the second highest alert in the region.

As a result of the snowfall and ice, authorities setup emergency shelters for stranded tourists in gyms and schools. The shelters quickly became full, and many tourists report they were unhappy with the delayed response by the French government to provide assistance and information.

“Disorganized response Angry tourists interviewed by French media accused authorities of a disorganized response to the extreme weather and of failing to keep them informed. ‘It was horrendous. There was no police and no information,’ one woman told France2. Others took to Twitter to complain, posting pictures of the ‘hell’ at Chambéry airport. Authorities said up to 15,000 people had gone to the 83 emergency centres in Savoie.”

Sky News spoke with people about the arduous journey down the roads from the ski resorts. Some noted that a journey that typically took one hour was 10 hours with the current road conditions. Like other stations have reported, people seem frustrated by the lack of help on the clogged roads.

“No emergency services to be seen whatsoever or anyone handing out hot drinks and food to weary drivers, many of whom are with small children en route to their holidays, stuck on the road in freezing temperatures.”

Though crews from the French authorities are not out on every road, once travelers make it to a shelter, they will find a warm place to eat with food and water.

Interestingly, ski tourists were initially told last week that the slopes would be closed because of a lack of snowfall. However, the scene quickly changed with over 2.5 feet falling on the upper slopes. After the heavy snowfall, ski slopes were open, but the resorts warned of the potential for avalanches, and did not encourage skiing. One skier was killed in an avalanche, after the snowfall at the Auron resort in the Alpes-Maritimes.

A second death in the French Alps occurred when a 27-year-old man fell to his death after his car fell off a snow-covered road. His vehicle plummeted from the road in the Belledonne mountain range in Isère.