TRAFFIC is moving close to normally in Savoie today after heavy snow stranded 15,000 travellers during a nightmare weekend - but Météo France has warned that a severe cold snap is on the way.
The national forecaster has said warned that ice is likely as temperatures plunge into the red, while the heavy snow has also increased the risk of avalanches. Météo France has said that the mercury will rise no higher than -1C today in the north east, and forecast that it will not break zero in the northern Alps before the end of the week.
Across the country, temperatures are set to dip as low as -6C, the forecaster said.
Early morning temperatures in Bellefontaine fell to -16C overnight, according to weather reports on BFMTV this morning.
The cold snap has prompted authorities in Paris, Lyon, Poitiers and Calais to increase capacity at emergency shelters for homeless people. In the French capital, 1,000 extra beds have been readied for those who would otherwise be sleeping on the streets - on top of the 9,000 places that are usually available.
The weekend snow hit as holidaymakers headed to and from popular ski resorts in the region, where authorities set up 83 emergency shelters to cope with the influx.
A 27-year-old man died when the car he was in slid into a ravine in the Belledonne mountain range.
National forecaster Meteo-France declared an orange weather alert in several departments as the snow and ice struck, but the warning was lifted on Sunday afternoon
One driver, stuck in his car in the Alps, told AFP: "It's taken us 10 hours to travel 130 kilometres."
Authorities blamed the traffic chaos on vehicles that were not properly equipped for the conditions, as emergency services in the Savoie were called out to rescue stranded drivers 270 times on Saturday alone.
On Sunday, only vehicles fitted with chains on their tyres were permitted on roads in the region. But the conditions improved, allowing authorities to close most emergency shelters by the afternoon.
Transport minister Alain Vidal told Europe1 Radio: “The vast majority of vehicles are equipped (with chains), but those who are not create disruption.”
Chains remain mandatory at Val Thorens and Les 2000 Arcs, authorities have said.
As reported, the weather hit travellers elsewhere, with high winds in the Channel forcing the port of Calais to close for several hours.
The winds, which reached speeds of 160kph, blew down tents in makeshift camps housing thousands of illegal migrants just outside the northern city.