(AP) — Several communities in the Austrian Alps put mass coronavirus testing on hold Sunday. Others were urged to do the same after a storm dumped huge amounts of snow, sending some avalanche warnings to their highest level.

In East Tyrol, 500 households were left without electricity after trees brought down power lines. The avalanche warning was at its highest level of 5. Several areas in East Tyrol postponed virus testing. In North Tyrol, the avalanche warning was at 4 on Sunday.

Neighboring Italy and Switzerland also issued avalanche warnings, and the Brenner Pass highway between Austria and Italy was partially closed, as were some train connections, APA reported.

More than a meter (three feet) of snow fell within a few hours in the Italian Dolomites and rain burst riverbanks of the Panaro river, forcing a few dozen families to evacuate from the Modena area as a precaution, the ANSA news agency reported.

In Austria, Tyrol authorities told local communities to assess whether the conditions warranted postponing coronavirus testing planned for Sunday. “The safety of the population comes first,” authorities said.

Austria on Friday started a voluntary mass testing program that officials hope will prevent long, hard lockdowns in the future. The fast antigen tests started in Vienna and in the westernmost Vorarlberg and Tyrol provinces. The testing is part of Austria’s strategy to slow the spread of the coronavirus even as it starts to ease restrictions this coming week.

Tough lockdown measures that took effect Nov. 17 expire on Sunday. Going ahead, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Austria will allow skiing from Dec. 24 but will keep restaurants, bars and hotels closed until Jan. 7.

A member of French ski team removes snow from a car with a shovel.

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