Snow falls - and much of Britain comes to a predictable standstill


A flurry of snow slowed down southern Britain yesterday and brought much of it grinding to a halt.

It was hardly a Russian winter. There were no white-outs, blizzards or five-foot drifts. Three to four inches was a typical fall, the amount you can sweep off the top of your car with your gloved hand.

Yet so unused to snow of any kind are we becoming during the warmer winters that climate change is now bringing, it was enough to cause chaos. Airports closed. Roads were blocked. Trains were cancelled. Schools didn't open - thousands of them - so a vast army of pupils had an unscheduled day off, on a day when the snow covering in many places was only deep enough to build snowmen knee-high. What would they think of us in Chicago?

There was plenty of warning, too. The Met Office sent out a precise forecast but it made no difference on the day. It was still a snow KO.

Starting in the early hours, the snow formed a blanket over the south-east of England, stretched to Wales and the Midlands, and reached up to Lancashire and across to the Humber, with depths ranging from two to six inches. It was the most widespread snow of what has so far been an exceptionally warm winter, in what according to the Met Office may turn out to be the warmest year on record.

Transport went down in its wake. Commuter services, starting in the early hours when railway points were sometimes frozen, were worst hit. Hundreds of thousands of people were delayed on their journeys into central London, with major interruptions to trains across the South and South-east, while London Underground reported delays right across the Tube network. Many chose to stay in bed.

Virgin Trains restricted its services between London Euston and the North, and one in four mainline trains in the South-east was delayed or cancelled.

It was a similar story on the roads. In spite of the fact that an army of 400 gritters and salt-spreading machines had been out, three major routes across the South-east were blocked by lorries jacknifing: the M25, the A22 and the A3. According to Essex Police, there were 23 crashes on the county's roads in just two hours, while 19 accidents in five hours were reported to police in Wiltshire.

Wales was more seriously hit. A spokesman for Ceredigion County Council saidnumerous untreated roads were impassable. Four main roads in the area were closed: the A487 Aberystwyth to Aberaeron, the A44 from Lovesgrove to Llangurig, and the A4120 Dyffryn Castell to Devil's Bridge and Cwmystwyth.

Airports were worst affected of all. Five airports - at Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Stansted and Luton - closed their runways for part of the morning, while Heathrow and Gatwick cancelled dozens of flights and delayed others. Tens of thousands of passengers were held up.

A surprisingly large number of schools also closed their doors for the day. In London more than 400 state schools - one in five - were shut. In addition, 600 schools in Wales, all 400 in Birmingham, 300 in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, 175 in Gloucestershire, 200 in Essex, 100 in Cambridgeshire and 100 in Norfolk and Suffolk were closed by local authorities and headteachers. The childcare services website reported record demand for childminders and nursery places.

Fresh snow is unlikely today, but after a cold night the travel dangers are more likely to be ice on the roads and freezing fog. Cold enough to shut down the country once more? After yesterday, it seems entirely possible.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform