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Heavy snow sparks travel chaos in northern Europe

By the CNN Wires Staff
Cars and trucks drive on the motorway A3 near Hilden, Germany, on December 17.
Cars and trucks drive on the motorway A3 near Hilden, Germany, on December 17.
  • Travel chaos reigns across northern Europe amid harsh winter weather
  • Blizzard conditions have closed airports from Northern Ireland to Bulgaria
  • Cold temperatures are caused by Arctic air flowing into southern latitudes
  • More snow is expected in the U.K., Germany and France

(CNN) -- A blast of harsh winter weather socked Europe Friday, causing travel chaos and sending temperatures into the deep-freeze.

From Northern Ireland to Bulgaria, blizzard conditions left airports with heavy delays or shut them entirely. In Belgium, truck drivers were forced to spend a freezing night in their cabs when authorities banned trucks over seven tons from travelling on icy roads.

At London's Heathrow Airport, snow caused the cancellation of many short-haul flights. These cancellations sparked a domino-effect that left passenger aircraft unable to get to the gates, prompting further delays. Hundreds of passengers who did manage to land were still unable to claim their luggage after baggage-handlers ended their shifts.

Meteorologists say the cold weather is caused by a negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation, which means that cold Arctic air is flowing into southern latitudes that are normally much warmer.

Heathrow weather woes

Forecasters don't expect conditions to change anytime soon. The next wave of snowy weather is expected to bring up to 20 centimeters to some parts of the U.K., with London expected to receive 5-10 centimeters of snow.

The weather system will move across France and Germany on Saturday night and Sunday. Below-normal temperatures are expected to continue in northern Europe into the beginning of next week.