Britain digging out after heavy snow; forecasters say cold snap will continue into next week

By Jill Lawless, AP
Thursday, January 7, 2010

Britain digging out after heavy snow, cold snap

LONDON — People across Britain dug out Thursday after some of the heaviest snowfalls in decades, as forecasters warned the cold snap brought by an Arctic weather system would continue through next week.

The storm shut airport runways, closed roads and led to train delays across the country, with the worst-hit areas receiving a foot and a half (50 centimeters) of snow.

About 4,000 people were without electricity in southern England, and drivers faced difficult journeys on icy roads. Major airports including London’s Heathrow and Gatwick were open, but hundreds of flights were canceled due to snow and ice.

At least two people were killed in road accidents, and a man’s body was found under the ice of a frozen pond at a country club in Frimley Green, southwest of London. Police said they were investigating.

Many rail services were delayed or canceled, and a Eurostar train from Brussels to London was stuck for two hours in the Channel Tunnel because of a technical problem. The company said it was investigating the cause of the fault, which followed a series of breakdowns last month blamed on dry, powdery snow getting into the trains’ engines.

Several thousand schools remained closed across Britain, from Scotland to southern England.

Weather service the Met Office said Britain was experiencing its longest cold snap since 1981. The temperature fell to minus 17.7 degrees Celsius (0 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight in the village of Benson in southern England.

Richard Young, Chief Forecaster at the Met Office, said “strong east to northeasterly winds will pick up across many areas later Friday, making it feel bitterly cold.”

The cold has driven a surge in demand for heating fuel. Authorities on Thursday urged power suppliers to switch temporarily from gas to other fuels such as coal and asked major customers to cut back on gas usage. The measure, known as a gas balancing alert, has only been used twice before — in March 2006 and on Monday.

Some sought to nurture the plucky British spirit. The Royal Society of Chemistry said it would award a 300 pound ($475) prize to the person it deemed “the most dauntless traveler” during the freeze.

The society said the prize would recognize “outstanding fortitude and resolution or selflessness” in the face of meteorological adversity.

The award commemorates the centenary of the start of Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated Antarctic voyage. Scott reached the South Pole in January 1912, but perished with four companions on the return trip. The society named its award the Cherry Prize after Apsley Cherry-Garrard, a survivor of Scott’s expedition who recorded the trip in a book, “The Worst Journey in the World.”

The society said it was inviting accounts and pictures of people who had showed particular “pluck, selflessness, and patience” until Jan. 21.


The Eurostar and St Pancras
January 7, 2010: 3:55 pm

I’ve been in Lille this weekend and just got back today, and personally, I think it’s very important to remember that a majority the services, especially those of the eurotrains, are even now still running, and if you look on the St Pancras or any of the other station websites, they do actually provide this information, but services have been reduced for user safety, as much as anything else.

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