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Europe's weather brings continent to a halt

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Peter Dejong/AP

(Read caption) Snow covers typical Dutch scenery in the center of Amsterdam, Netherlands, Friday Feb. 3. Winter weather forced the Dutch railroad company to operate on an adjusted train schedule and traffic jams clogged up the Dutch motorways as a cold spell holds most of Europe in its icy grip.

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It finally got really cold in Europe. Rome and the Netherlands recorded the lowest temperatures in 27 years and kids were making snowmen outside the Vatican. But the sudden arctic freezing last week in Ukraine, Hungary, and the Balkan states that steadily crept up the continent also took a toll, with 131 reported dead in Ukraine alone.

Winter usually arrives earlier in Europe than the United States, accompanied by piles of snow and ice, wind, and low temperatures. But “winter” as a story this season had been delayed here for lack of an appearance. Recent bits of snow – one inch in Berlin, two in Copenhagen, and three in London – seem remarkable since during November, December, and January, the continent was an advertisement for mildness. After Christmas carols at London's St. James Cathedral a few days before the holiday, patrons left to eat dinner outside. Berlin was bucolic. The ski industry was slightly panicked by the lack of snow.

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