Drivers stranded on French roads as snow and ice cause chaos

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Drivers stranded on French roads as snow and ice cause chaos
Authorities are working to clear snow from roads across northern France. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

Hundreds of vehicles were stranded on French motorways on Tuesday morning due to treacherous driving conditions as a cold spell hits France.


Police closed stretches of two motorways near Paris on Tuesday morning, after snow and tumbling overnight temperatures led to travel chaos in the north of the country.

Nine départements - including Eure, Orne, Manche, Calvados, Yvelines, Essone, Savoie, Haute-Savoie and Isère - were listed on the orange weather alert by Météo France for ice and snow.

Meanwhile, the two northern départements of Pas-de-Calais and Nord remained on alert for flooding after recent heavy rain.

Overnight, around 1,000 vehicles were stranded by dangerous driving conditions, and around 400 vehicles remained stuck on the A13, on Tuesday morning, according to Transport Minister Clément Beaune.

At 8:40am on Tuesday morning, the snow had caused more than 370 kilometres of traffic jams in the Paris region, according to the traffic information website Sytadin.

On a national level, roads watchdog Bison Futé counted 1,030 kilometres of cumulative traffic jams.

Road closures

In the Paris region on Tuesday afternoon, local authorities launched their level 2 snow and ice plan for roads, which includes speed limits of 70km/h on certain sections.

Paris police also announced on Tuesday morning that the A13 between Orgeval and Rocquencourt, and the A12 in Yvelines, were “temporarily closed to guarantee the safety of users”. 

Officials said they were using snow ploughs and road salting to “restore traffic as quickly as possible”. As of early afternoon, parts of the A12 had already begun to reopen, though salting was still ongoing. 

The N118 was also cut off to traffic at Vélizy-Villacoublay (Yvelines), according to regional roads monitor Sytadin on Tuesday mroning.


The A28, in northern Sarthe, meanwhile was closed on Tuesday morning around Bethon, between Alençon and Le Mans following a collision between two HGVs.

To find out if a motorway is accessible, you can visit the Bison Futé website and check their interactive map.


What to expect throughout the day?

National forecaster Météo-France originally only listed six départements on the orange alert, and extended this to nine later in the morning, warning that more could be added.

“Quantities of snow … are greater than expected,” Météo-France reported in its bulletin., which said that the current orange weather warnings may be extended.

READ MORE: Winter tyres and snow chains: What are the rules in France?

At 5.30am on Tuesday, 5cm of snow was recorded in Caen (Calvados), 3cm in Evreux (Eure) and 2cm in Paris, with forecasters predicting up to 10cm in total in parts of Normandy.

Authorities have cancelled school transport in Calvados, Orne and Eure-et-Loir, while HGVs over 7.5 tonnes are prohibited from roads in Calvados and Orne, according to France Bleu Normandie.


As of Tuesday morning, forecasters predicted that the cold would take hold across the whole of the country, with a large part of France seeing the mercury dip below freezing overnight (Tuesday-Wednesday) and the average daily temperature expected to fall into negative figures for the first time since 2018.

On Monday, Deputy Minister for Housing Patrice Vergriete said €120 million had been earmarked to provide emergency shelter for some 10,000 homeless people, especially women and children.

Around 3,000 women and children could be in need of shelter, according to estimates by the United Nations children's agency UNICEF and non-governmental organisations.


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