LONDON - Heavy snow disrupted air and rail travel in Europe on Monday, halting flights at London's main airport entirely and bringing traffic in the British capital almost to a standstill.
Tens of thousands of commuters were advised not to attempt the journey into work in London, experiencing some of its worst snow in almost 20 years. Buses were canceled altogether and hundreds of schools were closed across the country, leaving children to play and build snowmen in parks and gardens.
"I'd rather be sledging than at school," said 7-year-old Georgie Cunliffe, who was playing in a London park.
Conditions familiar to eastern Europe and other northerly countries notoriously pitch Britain into chaos, its infrastructure ill prepared for the cold.
In northern France as well, snow blanketed Paris and surrounding countryside and brought major air, rail and road systems to a halt.
London business leaders said the estimated cost to the British capital alone could be as much as 48 million pounds ($69 million) in lost productivity.
All flights in and out of Heathrow, a major international hub, were canceled.
London's three other commercial airports reported severe delays and flight cancellations. Highway authorities warned of hazardous driving conditions in southern and central England.
Dublin, Cork and Belfast airports were also forced to cancel some flights and Gatwick, Stansted and Luton close to London, and London City Airport were badly hit. A Cyprus Airways jet at Heathrow slipped off a taxiway after arriving from Larnaca but came to a safe halt. No-one was hurt.
Britain's Met Office said some parts of the country, including London and other parts of south east England, could be covered by up to 15 centimeters of snow by midday on Monday.
It issued a "severe weather" warning for large parts of the country, with weather experts saying south east England was experiencing some of its worst snow since the early 1990s.
The international rail operator Eurostar also reported delays due to snow in Britain, France and Belgium.
Many workers attempted to walk to their offices, trudging through thick snow, but London's Chamber of Commerce business organization said lost productivity could cost the capital dear at a time when the British economy is already in recession.
"We know that a one-day closure of the Tube alone can cost the capital up to 48 million pounds ...so with most of London's transport infrastructure down, the costs could be similarly high," spokeswoman Helen Hill said in a statement.
"Hopefully things will not grind to a halt completely however, as local staff may be able to get into the office and many others can now work remotely and conduct business online."
In France, traffic jams were recorded on roads leading into the capital during the rush hour and the Paris transport authority said many buses had to be canceled.
So far, this winter has been Britain's coldest in more than a decade and forecasters expect the cold weather to continue for several more days with freezing winds blowing in from Russia.