Winter's first blast brings whiteouts and darkness

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The Independent Online
Heavy snow, torrential rain and gale-force winds blocked roads, closed schools and claimed at least two lives yesterday as the first blast of winter struck Britain. The snow came as far south as London and Kent. In Wales, electricity supplies to many homes were cut by strong winds.

Further rain and sleet were forecast for the south today, with heavy frosts and clearer conditions moving in from the north-west.

The Automobile Association said it was unusual for the South to have such conditions in November but a spokesman for the London Weather Centre thought otherwise. "It's not that unusual to have snow in November," he said. "The last time London had snow then was in 1993."

The worst of the snow, including drifts of up to eight feet, was across the Midlands and the North and in the west. All roads in the Pennines apart from the M62 were closed for a time.

In Staffordshire a lorry driver died in a three-vehicle pile-up on the snow-covered M6. Drivers of two other lorries were seriously injured.

Rural schools in north Wales closed and in south Wales more than 8,000 homes were blacked out, while Derbyshire saw up to six inches of snow.

Early today nearly 200 passengers on the ferry Stena Explorer were waiting to be brought ashore in force eight winds at Holyhead, north Wales, after more than 20 hours on board. The ferry sailed to Dun Laoghaire, Ireland, from Holyhead, but was forced to turn back because the harbour was closed because of bad weather. It suffered damage on the waterline on its first attempt to anchor. A spokeswoman said: "We are just waiting for a window in the weather."