18 Jan 2013

UK snow: travel chaos hits the Friday rush hour

Flights cancelled, schools closed and roads closed: parts of the UK come to a standstill after snowfall of up to 30cm and a red alert warning in Wales, where power cuts are affecting 10,000 people.

Snow began to fall in Wales in the early hours of Friday morning and moved east and north across the country, hitting transport networks and disrupting travel plans along the way.

Over 3,000 schools were closed across the UK, meaning some sixth-form and college students saw their A-level exams postponed.

And as rush hour begins motorists are advised to take extra care and to avoid the roads if possible, amid strong winds, plunging temperatures and the looming threat of blizzards. Delays and road closures littered Hampshire and Wales earlier in the day and parts of the M4 and M50 were closed.

The Met Office issued a rare “red warning” for parts of south Wales and around 10,000 people experienced power cuts earlier on Friday, most of them in Pembrokeshire, with around 5,000 houses remaining without power into the afternoon. Merthyr Tydfil was among the worst hit areas, with reports of panic buying causing some local shops running out of stock.

Weather forecasters predict around 30cm of snow will fall in some areas during Friday afternoon while gusts could reach galeforce of 40-45mph around Scottish isles.

By 2pm, the AA said it had already dealt with around 900 breakdowns an hour, with the south coast, parts of south west England, the Midlands and London proving the busiest areas.

Check out the Channel 4 News snow map with your pictures from across the country.

Air travel was also affected by heavy snowfall: Flights to and from Belfasts two airports were cancelled later on Friday afternoon, as adverse weather swept across the city. Bristol, Cardiff and Southampton airports were closed for a time on Friday morning because of the snow, as were various runways at Heathrow, resulting in flight cancellations. Passengers are advised to contact their airline for progress on their flight, as some services remain delayed.

Many trains were disrupted on Friday morning and into the afternoon, with Southern, Greater Anglia, South West Trains and the Eurostar all running amended services or reporting delays because of the snow. National Rail is compiling the most up to date information.

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The Met Office issued an amber alert for the Midlands, London and the south, the east of England, the south west, the north west and Northern Ireland.

Weather experts warned it would be “bitterly cold” with temperatures likely to remain below zero. By the end of the day, most of the UK is expected to be covered with between five and 10cm of snow.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said reaching stranded motorists was now a “real challenge”.

“We moved a number of our 4×4 patrols to help people stuck in the snow in west Wales and parts of Wiltshire, south Gloucestershire and Hampshire,” he said.

“In order to deal with an expected increase in calls for assistance later in the day, we have also put every technically qualified engineer normally based in the office back out on the road again in patrol vehicles.”

The RAC expects to be particularly busy in East Anglia. Yesterday it attended around 3,000 more call-outs than usual.