Anyone looking for the first signs of spring in northern Britain found themselves plunged back into mid-winter yesterday with heavy snowfalls causing widespread disruption.
Blizzards and gale force winds hit many parts of the country. Snow covered almost all of Scotland, and many parts of Wales and northern England, with drifts more than a foot deep in places.
Those finding the extended cold snap difficult to endure were offered some solace by weather forecasters, who predicted that the severe weather is likely to ease a little today.
The snow storms left many unexpectedly stranded, with Scotland the worst affected. In east Ayrshire, a heavily pregnant woman was airlifted to hospital by the RAF because her ambulance was struggling on snowbound roads. Shirley Anne Hodge, 18, later gave birth to a daughter, named Skye, at Ayrshire Central Hospital in Irvine and was reported to be doing well.
Up to 5,000 homes in rural parts of the country were left without electricity, although Scottish Power said it expected many homes to have been reconnected by last night.
In Glasgow, more than 3,000 people were stranded after they emerged from nightclubs in the early hours to find that more than eight inches of snow had fallen. The city's roads were brought to a temporary standstill.
In central Scotland, two climbers left stranded on Ben Nevis were taken to hospital after spending the night stuck on the mountain.
Air travel ground to a halt for a time, with Glasgow and Edinburgh airports closed for a spell in the morning. Two transatlantic flights were forced to land in Belfast. Both airports reopened in the afternoon.
Further south, more than an inch of snow fell on Merseyside.
Liz Anetts, a weather forecaster, said meteorologists by surprise. "The problem is caused by a weather front coming in from the west and cold air coming in from the east at the same time," she said. "They collided and turned what would otherwise have been rain into snow."
The weather centre predicted that conditions for Scotland and the rest of the UK will improve greatly throughout today, although Scotland may have some more snow on higher ground, with some risk of the weather turning icy and a possibility of drifting snow.Reuse content