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Italy set for wet, stormy Christmas

Authorities issue warnings, people batten down hatches

24 December, 15:02
Italy set for wet, stormy Christmas (By Stefania Fumo) (ANSA) - Rome, December 24 - As families across Italy finalized travel plans Tuesday to spend Christmas with loved ones, a fierce winter storm system blamed for several deaths in northern Europe was bearing down on the peninsula.

A very white and wet Christmas was in store in Italy's northern regions including the Trentino area, where more than a meter of snow was expected at high altitudes of the Alps while forecasters said rain in lower areas could total as much as 120 millimeters.

Civil defense agencies issued a weather warning for the region, with heavy rain and snow expected to fall - along with temperatures - until at least Friday because of an Atlantic storm cycle.

A ''violent'' storm burst was likely on Christmas Day and December 26 across most of Italy, with the north and Sardinia likely to be hit hardest, forecasters said.

Tuscany, the region of Lazio - including the Italian capital of Rome - and further south in Campania with the city of Naples, were likely to be hit with wind and rain both days.

Venice authorities on Tuesday issued a Boxing Day warning as tides in the lagoon city are expected to peak at 120 centimeters, putting the city on the canals at risk of flooding.

Water levels are expected to remain within the norm on Christmas day, forecasters said.

In the northeastern coastal city of Genoa, authorities on Tuesday shut down urban parks, cut off pedestrian access to nearby scenic cliff walks, banned motorcycle traffic on the city's elevated highway and issued heavy wind warnings to amusement park managers.

In the western coastal city of Ancona, where winds are expected to reach 80 kilometers an hour and waves are expected to top three meters, the local branch of the Civil Protection Department issued a 24-hour storm warning beginning at noon on Christmas Day.

The same weather system earlier struck parts of northern Europe, paralyzing transportation systems and stranding thousands as people struggled to finish their holiday preparations.

In Britain, the death toll has risen to four while railways suspended service Tuesday morning as workers worked to remove debris from tracks, including trees brought down by strong winds.

Environment officials issued more than 300 flood warnings across England and Wales, with some deemed to be life-threatening, while strong winds and snow were forecast in Scotland and Northern Ireland and at least 39,000 homes remained without electricity.

In France, one person died and 240,000 homes have been left without power since winds in northern regions reached up to 130 km per hour on Monday.