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Heavy Snowfall Delights Skiers In The Alps, Snarls Traffic

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's move now to Europe. Heavy snowfall and icy, windy weather there over the weekend caused chaos. Thousands were left without power in Britain, while ferry service was disrupted across the English Channel to France. And in the French Alps, some 15,000 people were left stranded in their cars. Here's NPR's Eleanor Beardsley.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (Speaking French).

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: News channels showed standstill traffic on snowy highways. According to officials, as many as 37,000 vehicles were stuck Saturday night in the Savoy region of the Alps. Jean and Caroline Brissard (ph) talked to French television from their car window.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEAN BRISSARD: (Speaking French).

CAROLINE BRISSARD: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: We slept in this place, in the car, of course, because the all hotels were full, says the couple. Others, like Ludivine Gulette (ph), had similar tales.

LUDIVINE GULETTE: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: All the roads were jammed, she says. We had to pull over at a toll booth till 4 in the morning. Emergency shelters were set up to house the stranded in towns across the mountainous region. One man died when his car fell into a ravine.

But the Alpine snowfall, the first real one of the season, was good news for the French economy. The country's manufacturing sector may be in decline, but France's ski industry - the world's largest - is booming. And Christmas and New Year is the biggest season of the calendar. Samuel Crochet (ph) works at the Meribel Resort near Mont Blanc. Speaking by phone, Crochet says everyone arrived from their traffic nightmare in a horrible mood. But, he says...

SAMUEL CROCHET: They all have, like, big smiles because, yeah, the snow is there - good quality - and they all enjoy and all have a good day. And after a good day of skiing, you forget all your troubles.

BEARDSLEY: Skiers might be happy, but now it's public official who are in trouble for not doing more to prevent the chaos on French roads. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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