1 Dec 2010

UK Snow: arctic weather to stay until Friday

Snow and freezing temperatures are causing more travel problems. Gatwick and Edinburgh Airports are closed. The Met Office weather forecast says the harsh conditions are here until Friday at best.

The arctic blast which has brought heavy snow and freezing temperatures to the UK shows no sign of easing.

The Met Office weather forecast says the current conditions will last until at least Friday.

Gatwick and Edinburgh Airports are closed leaving thousands of travellers stranded.

A spokeswoman for Gatwick airport said: “We will not be able to operate until 6am tomorrow at the earliest and we are advising passengers with flights that had been due to leave today not to come to the airport.

“We brought in extra people to try to clear the runway. We had a vast army of people. But as fast as they were clearing the snow, the quicker it settled again.

“We have had about six inches of snow and more snow is forecast so we have taken the decision to cease flights.”

Edinburgh Airport will also be closed until tomorrow morning at the earliest.

Economic impact
Tens of thousands of people have been unable to make it into work this week as snow continues to cause problems for commuters.

The Confederation of British Industry and the British Chambers of Commerce say it is difficult to pin down exactly how much this costs the economy.

Helen Hill from the London Chamber of Commerce told Channel 4 News there were legitimate concerns about Britain's ability to cope with harsh winter weather: "It is very frustrating. Britain seems to grind to a halt and long term, if we're going to continue having these severe winters, we need to ask bigger questions about our infrastructure."

She said the recent conditions were especially challenging for businesses: "It's difficult because it is so early this year and in London it comes off the back of tube strikes.

"With it being the run up to Christmas many businesses also rely on passing trade which is affected by the heavy snow. Some sectors will benefit but for others it is much harder."

Click on the image above to see our Snow photo gallery

Roads and railways

Snow and ice have also caused severe problems on the railways.

Three trains were stuck overnight at Orpington near Sevenoaks – passengers were stranded from 9.00pm on Tuesday until 5.30am on Wednesday.

A spokesman for Southeastern trains told Channel 4 News he was sorry for what had happened and staff had been working as quickly as possible to get trains moving.

Passengers travelling to Paris on the Eurostar are also facing delays and cancellations becuase of the snowfall.

It has been a similar story on the roads.

One of the worst hit areas was Kent, with hazardous driving conditions and congestion throughout the early hours.

Motorists faced massive delays on the A2 at Cobham after a lorry jack-knifed under the M25 flyover.

The Dartford River Crossing was also closed with traffic being diverted through one of the Dartford tunnels.

Hundreds of drivers have been stuck in traffic jams across the south east.

Phil Searle, from Surrey, was stranded in his car near Banstead for more than eight hours on Tuesday.

He was travelling with his partner and 2-year old daughter: “We just spent the time trying to stay happy and keeping my daughter entertained.

Nobody working here can remember such an accumulation of snow on the structure. Chris Tracey, Forth Road Bridge

“We noticed lots of other drivers around us getting very stressed. The couple behind were shouting.

“My daughter was actually very well behaved the whole time – it was like she was quite enjoying it.”

They eventually had to abandon their car and walk the final two miles home.

In Scotland the Forth Road Bridge linking Edinburgh and Fife is closed.

Operators said that a jack-knifed lorry blocked both lanes on the bridge at around 5.30am, allowing heavy snow to accumulate.

Extra heavy snow clearing equipment has been drafted in to help clear hard packed snow on the bridge.

Chris Tracey, the bridge’s engineering services manager, said: “The team has been working flat out to clear what have been unprecedented levels of snowfall on the bridge.

“Nobody working here can remember such an accumulation of snow on the structure before.”

A nightmare commute in the snow
Passengers were advised there were no trains to Ashford from Victoria, so to make their way to Swanley where there would be a shuttle service, writes commuter David Barker.

Thousands of passengers ended up stranded in an un-manned station with waiting rooms locked with no information.

A double decker bus finally arrived only to be stuck in snow.

After an hour of pushing, the bus - packed with passengers - was freed and sped off a mile up the road only to be stuck again.

It then joined a grid lock of traffic that seemed to cover the whole of south London, where nothing moved for hours. After a few pub and Tesco stops the brave driver took a side turning which lead through country lanes, with stops to push stuck cars out of the way, crashing through trees ladened with snow and ice which showered down onto and around the bus as it made its onward travel.

With horror we arrived at Eynsford, where the overloaded bus found it could not go over the bridge . Yes the clue is in the name - it reversed and taking a bit of a run drove through the gushing ford to much applause! The bad news was this blew the head lights!

A draughtsman passenger produced a torch which was held to the windscreen to light the way for the rest of the trip. This was in blizzard conditions with 200mm of snow on untreated roads. We then continued to the various station stops [and comfort/smoking stops] to finally arrive at Maidstone at 2am.

Snow to continue

Temperatures dropped to minus 20C in the Scottish Highlands overnight – minus 19.8C was recorded in Altnaharra – and thousands of children are at home again due to school closures.

Forecasters say the Arctic weather will not show signs of letting up until Friday.

Met Office weather forecaster David Price said: “It will remain bitterly cold today with the strong north-easterly winds continuing to bring snow showers and making temperatures feel as low as minus six or seven degrees.

“There will be fresh snowfall across the majority of the country, with the only areas really escaping being the Midlands, the far south west of England and the west and north-west of Scotland.”

Mr Price predicted that an average of between 0.8 inches and 2 inches of snow will fall across the UK today, with 4in to 6in falling in higher areas.

Temperatures are also expected to struggle to get past freezing, with maximums of just 2C.

He said the snowy conditions will continue throughout tomorrow, adding to the existing levels that have accumulated over the past week.

“On Friday we should expect a reprieve from the showers. However, it will remain extremely cold and the snow will be back over the weekend,” added the weather expert.