Cyprus Mail

Blizzards blast UK, Ireland; drivers trapped in Scotland (Update)

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives in Downing Street, London

Snow storms from Siberia blasted Britain and Ireland on Thursday with the worst weather since 1991, trapping several hundred motorists on roads in Scotland, closing thousands of schools and grounding planes.

With up to 90 cm of snow and temperatures as low as minus 10.3 Celsius in Scotland, Britainand Ireland issued their most severe red warnings which advise people to stay at home as travel is too dangerous. More freezing snowy weather, including icy gales in Scotland, was forecast for coming days.

Hundreds of people were trapped in their cars on the M80 motorway between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Flights and trains were cancelled across both Britain and Ireland – with similar transport problems seen in parts of continental Europe.

One doctor told Reuters that staff were snowed in at a hospital near Glasgow, and another doctor told the BBC of a surgeon colleague who walked almost three hours in the snow to the town of Paisley to perform a cancer operation.

“We have seen a lot of snow overnight, blizzards and drifting,” said Clare Nasir, a meteorologist at Britain‘s weather services, known as the Met Office. “Communities have been cut off and roads have been blocked.”

London’s busiest railway station, Waterloo, showed more than half of trains cancelled or delay at the height of rush hour. Southern Railways said an 8 foot (2.5 metres) icicle in a tunnel was delaying services.

Wholesale gas prices soared to their highest in at least 10 years on Thursday and the British power network regular, the National Grid, warned of a deficit in the market and sought to buy gas from market players to unblock local bottlenecks.

The cold spell, dubbed the ‘the Beast from the East’, has been caused by a jump in temperatures high over the Arctic which has weakened the jet stream that brings warm air in from the Atlantic to Ireland and Britain.

Britain‘s two busiest airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, both said that flights would be cancelled. Police in Lincolnshire, eastern England, said that all roads were impassable. More than 150 flights were cancelled at Dublin airport.

Britain‘s Met Office warned that freezing rain was likely across southern England as Storm Emma pushes northwards from Portugal and France, adding that it looked set to be the coldest spell in Britain since 1991.


“Storm Emma is going to push up from the south and that will bring heavy snow to parts of the southwest of England in particular where we are likely to see major disruption,” Alex Burkill, a meteorologist at Britain‘s weather service said.

In Scotland, schools in the central region were closed for the third day and some offices and shops were also shut, with widespread road closures and only handful of train and bus services running. The Scottish Conservative Party cancelled its conference due to take place in Aberdeen on Friday and Saturday.

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow airports were closed. Some places in southern Scotland were under such heavy of snow, it affected funeral services in Hawick, near the border with England.

“The issue for digging the grave is getting into the burial ground, and we’ve had about 3 feet (90 cm) of snow here,” Ross Walsh of Robson’s Funeral Directors told Reuters.

Ireland was bracing for the biggest snow fall since 1982 with public transport halted and schools across the republic closed. The Irish stock market said it would close from midday on Thursday and remain closed all day Friday.

In Switzerland, Geneva airport closed for several hours and dozens of flights were cancelled. Snow also disrupted road and rail traffic.

France had its share of snow too, even on the beaches of the Riviera coast in the southeast.

The worst was in the south where hundreds of cars and trucks were stranded on the A9 motorway, a strip that links southern France and Spain. The airport in Montpelier was closed for a period overnight but partially reopened on Thursday.

Upwards of 15,000 homes along the Mediterranean were without power on Thursday morning, power network company Enedis said.

It also snowed across much of northern Italy overnight, bringing fresh disruption to the rail network, already hard hit by heavy snow across the south at the start of the week.

Schools in Florence were ordered to shut, while heavy goods vehicles were banned from the roads in the north.

In the Netherlands, much of the problems were caused by strong wind. At Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, only two of the six landing strips could be used on Thursday morning. Authorities had to close sea barriers south of Rotterdam to protect shipping.

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Reuters News Service