First heavy snow of the season in northwestern Europe

Dry but cloudy weather is now moving in the region, with brighter and warmer conditions expected on Thursday.

    Paris got its first snowfall of the season on Tuesday, prompting travel alerts for commuters. The famous Eiffel Tower was closed as both tourists and locals made their way carefully along slushy sidewalks.

    At least one major road to the southwest of the French capital was closed to traffic for a few hours after flurries brought several centimetres of heavy snow.

    Last year, nearly 1,000 vehicles were stranded on the stretch of the RN118 highway, forcing almost 2,000 people to spend the night in their cars.

    Officials were determined to avoid a repeat, and city workers were out early on Monday morning salting intersections around the capital. The RN118 reopened in the afternoon but speed restrictions remained in effect throughout the day.

    Train operator SNCF issued a "pre-alert" of possible delays for high-speed TGV trains in the region, and Paris commuters were also warned of service disruptions on some metro lines and dozens of bus routes.

    "It's limited for now, there are a few centimetres, up to two or three maximum," said Francois Gourand of the national forecaster, Meteo France.

    Gourand described a "classic winter episode" for the Paris region, but noted that the storm was a boom for ski resorts in the southern Pyrenees Mountains, which have had very little snow 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.

    Elsewhere in Europe, there was also a dusting of snow in parts of the United Kingdom and the Low Countries.

    People in Brussels donned hats and gloves on Tuesday to brave the first snowfall of the season, as the Royal Meteorological Institute of Belgium (IRM) issued a yellow alert for slippery conditions.

    There were further flurries overnight across Belgium including along the French border, as temperatures remained low. Residents in the capital enjoyed the snowfall, saying it gave the city a different look and brought out "the child in most people".

    Dry but cloudy weather is now moving across the country, with brighter and warmer conditions expected on Thursday, according to the IRM.

    SOURCE: News agencies