Arctic blasts bring weather chaos

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The Independent Online

A blast of Arctic weather closed an airport and brought blizzards, sleet, torrential rain and floods across Britain yesterday - but forecasters say the worst is over.

A blast of Arctic weather closed an airport and brought blizzards, sleet, torrential rain and floods across Britain yesterday - but forecasters say the worst is over.

The Met Office says thatalthough conditions will remain cold for days, with chill North Sea winds, the spell of snow, sleet and rain is on its way out, to be replaced with sunny spells. There will still be wintry showers, especially around Lincolnshire and East Anglia, although the weather should be drier and brighter.

Flooding and severe weather alerts paralysed roads and rail networks. Twenty planes were diverted after snow closed Luton airport over-night. Passenger and cargo planes were diverted to Birmingham and Stansted from 9.30pm until Luton reopened at breakfast time. The snow blanketed vast tracts of the country, causing rush-hour commuter chaos as trains were delayed by power and signal faults on the Reading to Paddington and Portsmouth to Waterloo lines, among others

In the hard-hit West Country, high winds caused speed restrictions on the M48 old Severn Bridge and thousands of newborn lambs were frozen to death in snowstorms. Hill farmers battled to save the young stock from drifts up to 5ft deep, but lambs and ewes were smothered as they huddled against walls and hedges for shelter.

One shepherd, John Small, who farms in the Mendips near Charterhouse, Somerset, lost more than 100 new lambs. Thousands of people in the area were facing a second night without electricity after power lines broke.

Torrential rain in the south of England, high winds and bitterly cold temperatures made life miserable for drivers.

Flood alerts were issued for rivers from Cambridgeshire across to Somerset. In Somerset, a nurse in her twenties suffered hypothermia when her car was part-submerged in floods near East Pennard. She put her head through the sunroof to call for help on a mobile phone. Operators talked to her to keep her calm, but by the time firefighters arrived 30 minutes later, she was hypothermic and had to be taken to hospital. David Lee, a welder, was driving his girlfriend, Jenny Hamilton, and their baby, Harriet, to the supermarket in Manchester when winds ripped the 100sq ft steel roof off Chadderton Reform Club. Mr Lee saw the roof take flight and reversed his car out of range as it crashed down.

In Surrey, an AA patrolman, jumped into a water-filled ditch to rescue a trapped motorist. Simon Bull, 42, saw the car catapult off the M3 near Sunbury and land upside down. Mr Bull gave the driver mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and the victim is recovering in hospital.

Floods reached 2ft in several homes. Amber flood warnings were in place across much of the country. In the Highlands, warnings of avalanches followed fresh snow falls.

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