The Heat Is Online

Britain Paralyzed by Longest Cold Snap in 19 Years

As U.K. shivers, hundreds of cars stuck in snow

 Flights, trains and classes cancelled amid winter blast, worst in 30 years

The Associated Press, Jan. 6, 2010

LONDON - Unusually heavy snowfall stranded hundreds of motorists, disrupted trains and shut down schools and airports across Britain on Wednesday as the country suffered through its longest cold snap in nearly 30 years.
Airports across the country were paralyzed, with London's Gatwick and Stansted unable to operate and hundreds of flights canceled. At Gatwick, where the only runway had been shut for snow clearance all day, more than 240 flights were canceled. London Luton airport was closed until early afternoon. A dozen flights were also canceled at London's Heathrow airport, Europe's busiest, with long lines building at check-in desks.
The foul weather also badly hit Britain's road network. Sections of the country's most important highways — including the M1, which links London and Leeds — were closed, and the military was called in overnight to help rescue motorists when up to 1,000 vehicles were caught in a snow-related traffic jam in Hampshire, in southern England. Many people were evacuated to nearby rescue centers but some slept in their vehicles overnight.
The demands on rescue workers in southern England were so overwhelming that coast guard workers turned their skills from sea to land to help out.
Train services were also affected, with lines in southern England reporting reduced services. Eurostar, whose service through the Channel Tunnel was frozen for days by snow-related problems in the run-up to Christmas, said it was canceling four services Wednesday due to the weather. Nationwide, thousands of schools closed down.
However London's transport system, which practically ground to a halt when snow hit the capital in February, only suffered minor disruptions.
Ill-equipped for heavy snowfall
British winters are typically mild, and cities and towns are generally ill-equipped to deal with heavy snowfall. With the worst-hit areas seeing up to 16 inches of snow, officials and road crews were struggling to keep up.
Several local governments were running out of sand and salt — with some reportedly emptying department stores of supplies. The wintry weather has prompted some police forces to urge drivers to stay off the roads and some trash collectors to suspend their rounds.
The national weather office says Britain is experiencing its longest cold snap since 1981. The unusually cold weather is expected to continue for the next two weeks.
Forecasters say that, while rare, the recent bout of cold weather isn't necessarily a sign of climate change.
Robin Thwaytes, the duty forecaster at Britain's weather office, said "it's very unusual for something like this to last as long as it has," but noted that such events can happen every 20 to 30 years.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Snow, ice sweep Britain, disrupting transport

Truck collision kills driver as schools shut and planes are grounded

The Associated Press, Jan. 5, 2010


LONDON - Hundreds of schools were shut, travelers faced air, rail and road delays, and even venerable soap opera "Coronation Street" was disrupted Tuesday as snow and icy weather swept Britain.

A driver was killed when two trucks collided on a highway near Manchester in northwest England, and scores of accidents were reported on icy roads. Automobile support service RAC said it was dealing with 1,400 incidents an hour.

Up to 12 inches of snow was forecast in some parts of the country as the bad weather moved south from Scotland.

Schools were closed across Scotland and northern England, and train services between London and the north were disrupted.

Flights canceled

All flights were canceled to and from Manchester Airport in northwest England for several hours after snow closed the runway, and delays and cancellations hit airports including Liverpool's John Lennon airport, Leeds/Bradford in northern England and London's Luton and Gatwick.

Sports and entertainment also felt the impact. Police in northwest England said Tuesday's soccer game between Blackburn Rovers and Aston Villa was being postponed due to severe snow.

Filming at the Manchester studios of "Coronation Street" — a popular TV soap about a working-class community in northwest England — was suspended after cast and crew members were kept away by the snow.

Temperatures were just below freezing in most areas, falling as low as -14 F in northern Scotland.

Coldest winter for years

This winter has been the coldest for years, driving a surge in demand for heating fuel. Authorities on Monday urged power suppliers to switch temporarily from gas to other fuels such as coal. The measure, known as a gas balancing alert, has only been used once before, in March 2006.

Weather service the Met Office said snow would reach as far south as London, with unusually cold weather expected to continue for the next two weeks. The office said Britain was experiencing its longest cold snap since 1981.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.