Monday, 6 December 2010

Britain's big freeze: Edinburgh and Glasgow airports close as temperatures fall to -18C



In the bleak midwinter: Eggleston Abbey near Barnard Castle, Teesdale as the cold continues to grip the UK

Britain woke up to the return of freezing weather today as forecasters warned temperatures had plummeted as low as -18c (0.4f).

After a brief respite of milder weather this weekend - London enjoyed a relatively balmy 6c (43f) yesterday - the big freeze is back.

Last night the mercury plunged to -18C in parts of North Yorkshire while more snow, sleet and patches of freezing fog hit large swathes of the country as millions returned to work after a chilly commute.

In Scotland, Edinburgh airport remains hampered by the weather for the second week in a row with runways closed until at least 2pm today. Glasgow airport is also closed until at least 12:30pm as staff try to clear snow from the runway.

In England, there's better news for travellers hoping to jet away for winter warmth. All of England's airports are currently open although there are possible delays at Newcastle because of 'de-icing issues'.

At Gatwick, which was forced to cancel around 1200 flights over two days last week, operations have returned to normal although travellers are being advised to allow extra time for their journey because fog is causing poor visibility on nearby roads.

The fog is also affecting London City airport with many flights cancelled this morning due to low visibility.

Fun in the snow: This duo made the most of the cold weather and went for a slide at Barnard Castle

Stephen Davenport, forecaster for MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: 'It was another very cold night and it has been well below freezing almost everywhere.

'Even London was close to minus 3C - it reached minus 2.8C in St James's Park.
'Only the Isles of Scilly and the far south-west of Cornwall stayed above freezing.
'It's been so low overnight that temperatures are struggling to come up.'

As fears of panic-buying and fuel shortages receded temporarily with the weekend thaw the focus will now shift once again to the country's transport network.

The unprecedented snowfall last week left scores of roads and railway lines paralysed, closed airports and shut thousands of schools.

The Royal Mail suspended its guaranteed next day delivery service whilst online book retailer Amazon warned its deliveries could be delayed by one to two days.

Icy outlook: Gibsons cave in Bowlees, Teesdale as the severe winter weather continues to grip the UK

The shelves are bare: Shortages have meant milk is running out in supermarkets like this store in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire

Bend ze knees: One skier makes the most of the chilly snap by taking to the slopes in Glenshee north of the border

Supermarket shelves were emptied, fears of a fuel crisis grew and toys bound for UK ports were turned away due to treacherous conditions.

And with four in ten workers staying at home the economy lost a staggering £1.2billion each day.

Figures revealed yesterday show the Arctic weather also hit the high street.

The Christmas shopping rush, usually seen during the final days of November, failed to materialise this year as fewer consumers braved the heavy snow.

It also damaged online sales amid fears that orders risked getting lost during the snow chaos, or being caught up in a backlog of deliveries.

The growth in non-store sales was well down on the 39.2 per cent seen last year, according to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker.

But Don Williams, BDO head of retail, said the figures were not a cause for concern.
'Retailers will be nervous, but the fact we've had this snowfall at the end of November rather than mid-December means they won't have to panic discount,' he said.

The restrictions on truckers' working hours have been relaxed to help vital supplies get through during the current spell of snowy weather.

The nine-hour daily driving limit has been increased to 10 hours for all heavy goods vehicles until Wednesday in a bid to ease the supply of fuel, food and gritting salt.
The government urged the country not to panic-buy and insisted there was no problem with the supply of food and fuel.

And in a bid to reassure motorists the Transport Secretary Philip Hammond insisted that plentiful salt supplies were available, with mines in the UK producing 12,000 tons a week.

The Highways Agency said it had so far used 35,0000 tonnes of salt on the country's main routes and still had 225,000 tonnes in stock.

Making the most of it: A snowboarder in Glenravel Glen, north of Belfast

Arctic England: People walk through the snow near Great Chart near Ashford, Kent while a woman crosses the frozen River Foss in York

Blanketed: Gatwick Airport is covered in snow after days of flight disruption

With some areas covered by up to one metre of snow forecasters said Britain had already seen the deepest and most widespread snowfall for December since 1981.

And if the temperatures remain below average for the rest of the month it could also become the coldest on record since 1981, when temperatures dropped to -25c.

Met Office forecaster Tom Morgan said: 'Through the week daytime temperatures are going to really struggle to get above freezing and double-digit negatives by night.

'This looks set to continue until next weekend, when the weather should become milder again.

'The mild weather won't last though. It'll become very cold once again with temperatures dipping below freezing.'

source: dailymail


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