Heaviest snow for 30 years stops Britain in its tracks

Thousands of homes left without power by blizzards. Fresh snowfalls threaten to bring chaos next week
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The Independent Online

The wintry chaos that has paralysed Britain this week continued to wreak havoc yesterday, leaving one man dead, thousands of homes without power and crippling the transport infrastructure, as up to 22 inches of snow fell on parts of the country. Last night, the elements claimed another victim after a man found by the side of a road in south Wales died from suspected hypothermia.

David Edwards, 23, from Ebbw Vale, was discovered early yesterday morning and died later in hospital. Gwent Police said they were not treating the death as suspicious.

Forecasters have offered only the briefest of respites, predicting that most of the country will escape more snow today, but warning that a storm on Sunday night threatens to bring more disruption to the Midlands and the North of England with the threat of further snow in the South-east and London on Monday.

The extreme weather means that this week has now seen the heaviest snowfall in Britain in 30 years. Yesterday it forced the closure of Bristol and Luton airports and 4,000 schools. The two Severn bridges, linking England and Wales, were closed after sheets of ice up to one metre square fell from overhead gantries and smashed the windscreens of passing vehicles.

As local authorities scrambled to replenish their rapidly emptying salt stocks, supermarkets became the latest victim of the gridlock caused by icy roads. Deliveries to food stores in Bristol have been delayed after 50 lorries were stranded outside the city in heavy snow.

Power companies were last night struggling to restore supplies to 21,000 homes in the West Country, which saw blizzards across Devon and Cornwall. A further 3,500 houses in Stroud, Gloucestershire, were without electricity for several hours after the weight of snow brought down power lines.

The Met Office said the heaviest snow of the week was recorded yesterday in Okehampton, Devon, which saw 22in (55cm) of snow as part of a band of extreme weather crossing Britain from the West Country to Cambridgeshire.

A Met Office spokesman said: "There were some particularly heavy snowfalls in the late 1970s and this week has certainly put us on a par with that. We will get a respite in the early part of the weekend, but then there will be a storm front on Sunday hitting North Wales, the Midlands and the North of England. There are also early signs of another snow event in the South-east on Monday."

Parts of the south-west of England and Wales could see up to 5cm of snow today but forecasters warned that the real problem will be black ice on the roads as temperatures dropped to -6C last night.

The ice, coupled with the fact that many councils across the country are running out of gritting salt, could cause extra disruption to Britain's already heavily-congested road network. The AA said that it had dealt with more than 3,000 callouts by 9.30am yesterday – which is double its normal rate.

The Local Government Association said last night that some councils had just a single day's supply of gritting salt left. A container ship carrying 40,000 tonnes of extra salt from Spain and a second vessel from Germany were due to arrive in Britain on Wednesday. In Gloucestershire, the council and police took the decision to grit only main roads, leaving 500 miles of secondary and rural roads untreated. The situation is similar in Wiltshire, Hertfordshire, Worcestershire, Surrey, Derbyshire, Cambridgeshire and parts of Wales.

Police in some parts of the country admitted that the decision not to grit some minor roads was taken in the knowledge that it would cause a rise in minor collisions. David Collicot, a traffic and road safety inspector with Gloucestershire police, says his force had dealt with 116 such accidents since Monday, compared to its usually average of four a day.

Game plan: Events at mercy of elements

Football

Championship: Barnsley vs Crystal Palace, Charlton vs Cardiff, Watford vs Southampton

League One: Bristol Rovers vs Huddersfield, Colchester vs Stockport, Hereford vs Brighton, Peterborough vs Carlisle, Yeovil vs Northampton. Swindon Town FC has called on fans to turn up at the County Ground to help clear snow from access routes

Scottish Cup: Airdrie vs Dunfermline

Rugby

Super League game between Harlequins and Bradford tomorrow afternoon hinges on an inspection at Twickenham



Racing

Today: Newbury, Warwick

Tomorrow: Exeter, Hereford, Leopardstown



Elsewhere

Duke of Beaufort's Hunt quiz night, Didmarton Village Hall, Avon, cancelled.

Chillingham Castle ghost hunt, Alnwick, Northumberland, cancelled

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