Schools shut as blizzards sweep in from Russia

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of schools across England and Wales were closed yesterday when snow driven by strong winds from Russia swept across the country.

Hundreds of schools across England and Wales were closed yesterday when snow driven by strong winds from Russia swept across the country.

Thousands of pupils were unable to get to school or were sent home early as blizzards and freezing temperatures moved into the Midlands and northern England and Wales - where 166 primary and secondary schools were forced to close. Forecasters predicted that the sleet and snow band would move further north into Scotland last night.

Five Welsh education authorities - in Gwynedd, Wrexham, Flintshire, Denbighshire and Conway - reported varying degrees of weather-related disruption. Scores of schools in Shropshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire were also forced to close.

Forecasters urged extreme caution on the roads where a combination of winds up to 60mph and poor visibility created hazardous driving conditions. In Watnell, near Nottingham, visibility was reduced to about 300 metres.

AA Roadwatch said driving conditions were difficult "across the board" but the worst affected roads were in Wales and the North-west.

West Mercia police said the conditions for early morning rush-hour traffic were particularly treacherous due to 76cm of snowfall in the small hours.

A combination of heavy rain and thawing snow on higher ground brought renewed fears of flooding, especially in the South-west. The Meteorological Office is monitoring river levels over the next 24 hours on the river Tone in Taunton, Somerset, and many of the rivers in the Devon.

A spokesman said that 27mm of rain had fallen in Cornwall and Cardiff yesterday.

The wintry weather which arrived in southern Britain on Tuesday - the first day of spring - also forced the closure yesterday morning of Luton and Birmingham airports.

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