On this day in 1952, a series of deadly avalanches begins across central Europe.
A storm stalled over the middle of Europe the first week of February 1952, dumping a couple of feet of snow in parts of France, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. In many places, activity came to a standstill. Thousands of people and their shovels were recruited in German towns to make the streets passable. In France, several people died when their roofs collapsed under the weight of the accumulated snow.
The worst of the 10-day snowstorm was felt in Austria, where avalanches took a deadly toll. At a ski resort in Melkoede, 50 people were sleeping in the early morning hours of February 11 when a huge mass of snow suddenly crashed down the mountain above them. Twenty people, almost all German tourists, were killed at the resort and another 10 were seriously injured. In Switzerland and Austria, authorities issued warnings about potential avalanches and some villages were evacuated.
Unfortunately, the following day brought more damaging avalanches. In Isenthal, Switzerland, hundreds of cattle and several barns were buried by snow. In Leutasche, Austria, a 12-year-old child was rescued by people who risked their lives digging while another avalanche was poised to fall. Seven of the child’s family members were killed.
Overall, it is estimated that 78 people died across Europe from the snowstorm and resulting avalanches.