“We will end up at temperatures worthy of the heart of winter, from mid-January to late-January,” says Olivier Proust, forecaster at Météo France.
Snow and ice is expected to hit much of France, with national weather agency Meteo France placing 50 departments on yellow alert – the third highest warning level.
The departments, including nine in Brittany, Normandy and the Pays de la Loire were placed on yellow alert — the third highest warning which advises people to be careful and stay up-to-date with the situation — at 6am on Wednesday morning.
Drivers are warned to be particularly vigilant.
“Our teams are on the warpath. In Reims, if the temperature of the road drops below 2C, we start salting,” Manuela Thomas of the Sanef network, a private company that runs French motorways, told Le Parisien.
Map: Meteo France
The current warnings are expected to remain in place until Thursday morning but it seems likely they'll be renewed, with forecasts saying the winter cold will last until at least Sunday.
“We will end up at temperatures worthy of the heart of winter, from mid-January to late-January,” Olivier Proust, forecaster at Météo France told Le Parisien.
On Thursday and Friday, snow is expected in two-thirds of the country, from Normandy to the Grand Est, and then down to the south of the Massif Central.
And the news may justifiably come as a surprise, with this being the first time snow has been expected so early in the year since 2010.
“It's been seven years since we've had such early snow,” said Pascal Scaviner, head of the forecast service at the Weather Channel, according to Le Parisien.
Weather on Thursday evening. Map: Meteo France
While the mountains in France have already had their fair share of snow, between Wednesday and Sunday it is expected to fall on lower ground around the country.
Snow flurries are predicted to hit the south of Burgundy in east-central France on Wednesday before shifting towards Franche-Comté in the east, said Scaviner. On Thursday, Normandy is expected to see “sleet and snow showers,” Scaviner added.
So far, departments surrounding Paris are on alert, although the French capital and the area immediately outside the city known as the “Petite Couronne”, Deux-Sèvres, Vendée, Vienne and Haute-Vienne have not yet been issued a warning.
Paris is due to get a dusting off snow on Friday morning, if everyone in the French capital crosses their fingers.