2024 has started with an unexpected polar vortex that has left at least six people deadtransport interruptions, power outages and closed schools mainly in Western Europe and the Nordic countries.
Furthermore, everything seems to indicate that cold and snow will continue to affect this week both to Spain and to the rest of the Old Continent. In fact, several European regions are already in emergency and some countries have warned that in the coming days thermometers will show extreme temperatures.
This environmental phenomenon is rare, but completely natural. Every winter, temperatures drop at the North Pole. A cold zone is thus formed 30 kilometers above sea level. This is what is known as the polar vortex.
To begin with, the first major cold episode of the winter and the most intense in the last six years in France is already causing havoc in the country, which woke up this Monday with temperatures below zero. A 25-year-old municipal worker was found dead in Rhône, near Lyon, under the wheels of the snowplow he operated. However, the causes of his death are still unknown. In addition, both the capital and the departments of Côtes d’Armor and Maine and Loire have activated level 2 of the cold emergency plan. For their part, another 40 departments are on yellow alert due to extreme cold.
In the border departments with Belgium, in particular Pas de Calais and North, affected in recent days by floods, the cold has forced 16 schools to remain closed this Monday. Furthermore, the difficulty of movement on the roads has caused there to be “1,500 children who cannot be transported by bus” to their schools, reported the senator from the North, Franck Dhersin.
Early this morning almost all thermometers showed temperatures below zero throughout metropolitan France, with a snow cover of up to 5 centimeters already present in departments such as the Haute-Loire and the Loire. As of noon, the first flakes have been noticeable in the Paris region, where at the top of the Eiffel Tower it has reached 11 degrees below zero. There, the plan for cold situations remains active at level 2, designed for days in which temperatures remain negative during the day and between 5 and 10 below zero at night.
Météo France, which points out that this episode cannot in principle be classified as a cold wave because it does not reach a sufficient level, predicts that the coldest day will be on Tuesday, when the national thermal indicator (the average of the day’s temperature in 30 stations representative meteorological conditions) could drop below 0 degrees. Besides, meteorological services highlight the change in weather compared to recent days, with a drop in temperature on a national scale of more than ten degrees.
In Moldova, dozens of towns have been left partially without electricity due to the storm that has devastated the former Soviet republic since Sunday, as reported this Monday by local authorities. In total, 57 localities in seven regions of the country bordering Ukraine and Romania suffer continuous power outages, the Emergency Situations Service reported on its Telegram channel.
For this reason, the Government has had to suspend the activities of public institutions, with the exception of those structures involved in snow collection, health or emergency work. Besides, the mayor of Chisinau decided to extend the school holidays from January 9 to 11, which also includes kindergartens, a measure emulated by other cities in the country.
Although meteorological services predict that the storm will subside this morning, temperatures have dropped sharply from 5 degrees above zero on Sunday to 10 below zero on Monday. In Ukraine, for its part, the arrival of snow storms and temperatures of up to 17 degrees below zero are posing a severe test for the country’s energy infrastructure, which is severely damaged after the Russian attacks.
For its part, Belgium activated its plan against the cold this Monday to provide shelter to the homeless in the face of the cold episode that is spreading across the continent and that will leave the Belgian capital with extreme temperatures that will fall to 6 degrees below zero this week. This is the “Extreme Cold” plan announced last week by the cabinet of the Brussels Minister of Social Action, Alain Maron, and which allows organizations operating on the ground to open new shelter places for homeless people.
In total, on the already existing reception centers in Brussels, 145 additional places, which come mainly from a temporary center of the Red Cross that opened this Monday in the Anderlecht neighborhood with a capacity for 100 people. The center will be open for a month 24 hours a day and will welcome applicants for a week – with the possibility of extension through a reservation system – offering food, hygiene products and showers.