Freezing winds add to chaos in Britain as the big chill continues
No let-up forecast in cold snap
Published 08/01/2010 | 05:00
People across Britain dug out yesterday after some of the heaviest snowfalls in decades, as forecasters warned the bitterly cold spell 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 (50cm) of snow.
As if it was not bone-chilling enough already, a strengthening north-easterly wind this weekend will bring wind-chill and polar-esque scenes of drifting snow in places.
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 cancelled.
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.
Many rail services were delayed or cancelled, and a Eurostar train from Brussels to London was stuck for two hours in the Channel Tunnel.
Several thousand schools also remained closed.
The Met Office said Britain was experiencing its longest cold snap since 1981. The temperature fell to --17.7C overnight in the village of Benson in southern England. Richard Young, chief forecaster at the Met Office, said: "Strong east to north-easterly 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 yesterday 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.
The Royal Society of Chemistry said it would award a £300 (€334) prize to the person it deemed "the most dauntless traveller" during the freeze.
The society said the prize would recognise "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 gruelling Antarctic trip in a book, 'The Worst Journey in the World'.
Meanwhile the family of a 103-year-old woman paid tribute to their local council yesterday for coming to her rescue through heavy snow.
Florence Jenkins, known as Millie, had to be evacuated from her village home, near Pontypool, south Wales, when it lost all electricity.
Staff at Torfaen County Council came to the rescue.
But they still faced the problem of how to reach Millie.
The answer came in the form of the council's own forestry supervisor Phil Grimes (47) and his 4x4 transport.
He managed to reach Millie at the wheel of his Land Rover.
He then took the relieved pensioner to a nursing home where she could escape the icy conditions.
The emergency began at 1pm yesterday when her family called social services warning that her electricity was off.
The pensioner's home-care provider then visited the property and discovered there was no quick-fix for the electrical fault.