Why is Europe Still So Unprepared for Snowmageddon?

As heavy snow continues to fall across Europe, many countries struggle to deal with the harsh weather conditions

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Nigel Roddis / Reuters

People enjoy the snow in Valley Gardens in Harrogate, northern England.

As the snow falls across Europe, cancellations of air, rail and road travel continue to cause chaos. But how is it that after three consecutive years of heavy snowfall so many countries are still so  completely unprepared?

In Great Britain, according to the BBC, the answer is cost.The U.K. government has discussed the possibility of local authorities increasing their grit stocks, and although the country does have a slightly larger amount than in previous years, the cost of further increasing the quantity lies outside the country’s finances. Further north in Sweden and Norway people are prepared for this wintry weather and change their tires after a certain date, writes the BBC. But is it worth the British taxpayer spending an extra amount on specialist tires for barely a week of snow each year?

This week, it certainly did. Heathrow, one of the busiest airports in the world, has grounded one in ten flights, while around 4,800 schools are closed across the country, reports the BBC. While the authorities struggle to clear roads and railways with limited resources, the Brits are making the most of the unusual snow cover and have taken to the hills with sledges, trays, cardboard cutouts – anything that can be used as a fast-moving, sliding mechanism.

Meanwhile, across the Channel, France is grappling with its own snowmageddon. On Monday morning 14 French departments were still on orange alert, particularly the Ile-de-France area where the capital city is situated, writes Le Point.fr. While French aviation authorities focus on getting planes off the runway, travelers huddle in Paris airports stranded by a 40% cancellation in flights. A country with some of the highest mountains in Europe, France is accustomed to dealing with snow in its Alpine regions. However, the heaviest snowfall in almost 25 years has caused traffic and travel to grind to a halt in the capital city, writes the Telegraph. With plans for the entire French government to visit the German Bundestag in Berlin on Tuesday for a 50-year commemoration of the signing of the Franco-German Élysée, there are fears that travel restrictions could delay the arrival of the French attaché. Germany is also suffering under the onslaught of cold weather temperatures. Travelers in Frankfurt have been forced to sleep in airports as travel chaos spreads across Germany, while the combination of snow and rain has led to hazardous ice on the roads causing many accidents.

(MORE: Holy Blizzard: More Signs of Global Warming)