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170km of jams as snow turns to ice

Orange alert for 19 departments as treacherous driving conditions affect motorways and keep Paris buses off roads

BLACK ice is making driving conditions treacherous across a large part of the north of France and 170km of road jams were being reported on the motorways of Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie.

After two days of intense snow, Météo France had just lifted its orange alert for 24 departments this morning when the government asked that it be imposed again to warn of the icy cold and the dangerous conditions in 19 departments. The areas affected are the regions of Basse and Haute-Normandie, Ile-de-France, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Picardie and Eure-et-Loir.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has warned that the next 48 hours will be “difficult”.

Three people have died in the heavier-than-expected snowstorms, in Port-en-Bessin (14), Saint-Brieuc (22) and Saint-Jean-des-Baisants (50).

The RN13 between Caen and Cherbourg was still closed this morning with 700 vehicles stuck in temperatures as low as -7C but other main roads had at least one carriageway open although all other roads were badly affected by black ice and heavy drifting.

On the motorways, there are major problems on the A1 where 2,500 vehicles have been stuck since yesterday. There are 1,000 on the road and 1,500 sheltering in the aire at Assevillers. In all, the motorway is blocked for 26km in the Paris-Lille direction and 15km on the other side.

Police and council officials requisitioned food from all the aires on the autoroute and distributed coffee and food to stranded motorists.

A 40km traffic jam was also reported on the A29 heading towards Amiens and a 25km jam blocking the A2 towards Brussels at Combles,.

School buses are still suspended in many areas and HGVs have been halted in Normandy.

Public transport has been badly affected due to the ice and virtually all of the Paris RATP buses were still in their depots this morning. Just a dozen services were running out of 360.

The RER has the majority of trains running with three out of four in Ligne A, two out of three on B and C, one in two on D and four out of five on Ligne E. RATP said that it had kept trains running through the night to stop overhead power lines from icing up.

Train traffic has started to run again with the first Thalys and Eurostar trains leaving Paris. However, in Normandy and Picardie the local TER trains are still largely at a standstill.

At the airports, both Charles-de-Gaulle and Orly were heading back to normal but Beauvais was shut as were Caen, Cherbourg, Lannion, Deauville, Dinard, Le Havre and Rouen. Although Lille-Lesquin was open there were no flights. Ryanair has cancelled flights to Beauvais - check with the airline for further information.

The winter “truce,” where landlords are not allowed to evict tenants, has been extended for two weeks from March 15.

Photo of Paris in snow Rod Janois/Twitter

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