File photo: AFP
Swathes of northern France were on alert for snow and ice on Tuesday morning, with traffic authorities on standby in case conditions take a turn for the worse.
A total of 24 departments are on orange alert, the second highest weather warning, by France's national weather agency Meteo France.
The departments concerned are Aisne, Ardennes, Aube, Cher, Eure-et-Loir, Indre, Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher, Loiret, Marne, Nievre, Nord, Oise, Pas-de-Calais, Paris and the area immediately outside the city known as the “Petite Couronne”, Seine-et-Marne, Yvelines, Somme, Yonne, Essonne and Val-d'Oise.
The departments were originally placed on orange alert on Monday at 4 pm and are expected to remain in place until at least 6 am on Wednesday.
Orange alert means that people in the area should remain vigilant due to the risk of dangerous weather conditions.
Map: Meteo France
In the greater Paris region of Île-de-France police have activated level 2 of the snow and ice plan, meaning people are advised to take public transport rather than use their cars and postpone unnecessary travel.
A total of 150 bus services in the French capital have been suspended until further notice.
The normally busy N118 was closed in both directions in the Yvelines department of the Ile-de-France on Tuesday morning.
The speed limit has also been reduced to 80km / h across the area.
From 6 am, vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes and vehicles carrying dangerous goods are banned from the RN 118 road, where 900 people were stuck in their cars last year, and the road was salted overnight.
Meanwhile French railway operator SNCF is on “pre-alert” and the staff for French capital's transport operator RATP agents are “mobilized” and “ready to implement the necessary measures,” according to a spokesman.
The head of the road operation department for the department of the Somme in the northern Hauts-de-France region is also prepared.
“Our salt stocks are refueled, our winter service equipment is operational and any small malfunctions will be repaired during the day,” Michel Boucher told Europe 1.
In the event of traffic difficulties, the Ministry of Ecological Transition has asked the public to limit travel and has encouraged drivers to use traffic info service Bison Futé.
In the Hauts-de-France, where the five departments are on orange alert, the regional council has already suspended school and intercity transport in the Aisne, Pas-de-Calais and part of the Nord departments all day on Tuesday.
Snow arrived in the Eure in Normandy, Moselle in the east of France and Côte-d'Or Burgundy-Franche-Comté, early on Tuesday morning and the fist flakes started falling in Paris at around 9.15 am.
The snow is the first to hit Paris this winter.
France's westerly regions are forecast to receive a more modest 1 to 5 cm of snowfall but it could end up looking like a veritable winter wonderland in the east.
“We're expecting five to ten centimetres of snow across a wide part of France's Grand Est region,” said France's national weather agency Meteo France.
The snow arrived in the Haute-Normandie border with Belgium before shifting to the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France and surrounds as well as the country's Centre-Val de Loire region.
By the afternoon Burgundy-Franche-Comté and the Grand Est region will bear the brunt of the cold front with those 10 centimetres of snow (enough to make a snowman with we hope).
“Very heavy snowfall” has been forecast for the Pyrenees, making the risk of avalanches on the slopes high for Wednesday.
More snow is expected later Tuesday, with temperatures hovering around zero Celsius (32 Fahrenheit).
Gourand described a “classic winter episode” for the Paris region, but noted that the storm was a boon for ski resorts in the southern Pyrenees mountains, which had gotten scant snowfalls so far this year.
“All of a sudden we're going to have one or even one and a half metres on average,” he said, warning of avalanche risks starting Wednesday.