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Storm 'Axel' drops polar freeze over Austria

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Photo: Freiwillige Feuerwehr Waidhofen/Thaya
10:29 CET+01:00
The winter storm that hit the country on Wednesday has even more in store; from bitter cold temperatures brought in by roaring high-speed winds to a healthy dosing of snow that will affect both the east and west.

Last night, wind speed didn't get any higher than in Upper Austria. Not only did residents deal with immense amounts of snowfall, but at 1,618 meters above sea level on the Feuerkogel mountain gusts of up to 161 km/h were measured.

The APA reported that in Vienna alone there were 150 incidences for which the fire department had to be deployed last night, which is double the norm according to spokesman, Michael Wagner. 

Highways across the country were also overwhelmed with harsh conditions. In the north-eastern Mühlviertel, the local police even tweeted that the region was "sinking in snow". 

As far as what's to come, meteorologist for Ubimet, Josef Lukas has reported that in the coming days the temperatures will hover between -3 and -12 degrees Celsius and in Pinzgau, southern Salzburg, it could fall as low as 23 below.

The wind will also remain vigorous until Saturday, which is especially compromising at high altitudes. "Skiers should bundle up," says Lukas. "At wind speeds of 50 kilometers per hour, it feels like minus 30."

Combined with coming bouts of snow, the velocity of the wind presents a much higher risk for avalanches in the Western, more mountainous regions. According to the avalanche expert at the Central Institut for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG), Arno Studeregger warns that the danger only increases once the storm has actually cleared. "The first nice day after a snowfall is the most dangerous." 

The coldest temperature ever recorded in Austria was in 1932 in Grünloch, with -52.6 degrees C. Subsequently, in 2002 on Christmas Day the same location saw -47.1 degrees C.

In January 1985 it was -27 degrees C in Vienna and -34 degrees C in Schwechat.
 

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