Frozen Britain: Snow and Ice Cause Chaos

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A steam train running through a snow covered valley in northern England

Nigel Roddis/Reuters

The U.K. is experiencing havoc due to bad weather and the conditions aren’t just affecting locals but travelers around the world.

No one has been spared. The two major airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, closed its runways with Heathrow shut until Sunday. Roads, railways and other airports have been hit across the rest of England as well as Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland (airports across Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands are also suffering cancellations and delays.)

(See pictures of snow hitting London.)

The snow is set to come down once more in many parts of the U.K., with up to 25cm (just under 10 inches) possible in some areas of England. Needless to say, those dreaded “severe weather warnings” are in place.

Most of the news coverage has centered on the airports, with some passengers being stranded on planes that have landed but can’t get to the terminal. Airport operator BAA said it’s bringing in water, food and blankets to help those stranded at the airport be as comfortable as possible overnight.

Stuart Coles, who spent five hours — a.k.a at least two movies — on a plane that had landed at Heathrow but couldn’t get to the stand due to ice and snow told the BBC that, “We had landed 20 minutes early. It took two attempts, which the captain said was because the plane in front of us had been skidding. Then we sat there for five hours. It was so frustrating to be so close but not be able to get off.” He then articulated what some NewsFeed readers might be wondering: “There were a lot of Americans and Canadians on the plane who couldn’t understand why so little snow had brought everything to a halt.”

(See the top 10 world news stories of 2010.)

That’s certainly a salient point, which is often heard in the U.K. when bad weather strikes. The reasons posited vary, from the costs involved in getting prepared being too high, because it’s still deemed rare for near Arctic conditions to hit (despite this being the third winter in a row this has occurred). And don’t rule out the powers that be taking a defensive tact, noting that the rest of Europe, including Scandinavia, also struggles to cope.

But it’s hard to argue against, literally, the cold facts: in Northern Ireland for example, freezing conditions have ensued after the heaviest snowfall for 25 years. The M40 motorway in England, between junctions 4 and 5 (the equivalent of one exit) is experiencing delays of four hours. On the M5, nothing is moving for 20 miles and fears remain that Friday night’s scenes of hundreds stranded overnight on the M6 in Manchester will be replicated.

Away from the roads, the last Saturday shopping day before Christmas found the Brent Cross mall closed (NewsFeed has lived near this mall for much of its life and can never remember this happening). And if you needed further convincing that it’s serious, much of Britain’s sporting calender was wiped out, including soccer and horse racing. In fact, the only sportsmen who wish they were unable to play are England’s cricketers but, due to contesting the Ashes in Australia this time around, the weather won’t be saving them from a humiliating defeat on Sunday.

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