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Snow and Ice Bedevil Transportation in France - 2003-01-05

Bad weather in Northern France has caused traffic tie-ups on highways, forced the cancellation of dozens of flights and stranded thousands of air travelers.

What is normally one of France's heaviest travel weekends of the year, the end of the Christmas and New Year's vacation, is more difficult this year because of snow and ice. Thousands of travelers were forced to spend the night in their cars or in the closed main Paris airport.

About 15,000 motorists were stuck on a principal highway southwest of Paris. Rescue workers distributed hot drinks and food to drivers stuck overnight in backups caused by ice and jackknifed trucks that blocked lanes.

Even in the middle of the night, the traffic jam at one tollbooth on the north-south A-10 highway stretched for more than 30 kilometers.

In the usually-mild champagne country to the east of Paris, the main highway was blocked overnight by trucks that could not move, and almost 1,000 people had to spend the night in emergency shelters. Portions of several other highways were closed.

Charles De Gaulle airport was also closed for three hours because of dangerous cross-winds during the height of the storm Saturday.

Thousands of passengers were forced to spend the night in the terminals after more than 100 flights were cancelled. There were more cancellations on Sunday and delays of up to two hours because planes had to be de-iced.