Arctic conditions return with heavy snow warnings

Britain

Severin Carrell
Monday 01 January 2001 01:00
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A severe bout of snow storms, heavy winds and freezing weather led to three deaths yesterday and left New Year's Eve revellers across Britain struggling to cope.

A severe bout of snow storms, heavy winds and freezing weather led to three deaths yesterday and left New Year's Eve revellers across Britain struggling to cope.

The Arctic conditions that gripped Britain last week returned across northern England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Forecasters warned of heavy snow falls up to 18 centimetres deep, storm-force winds gusting to 70mph, and sub-zero temperatures.

The severe spell left one driver dead and his passenger severely injured after their car careered out of control on an icy road near Bodmin, Cornwall, early yesterday morning. In another incident, a man in his thirties is thought to have died of exposure. He was found dead at a beauty spot near Earnsdale reservoir, Lancashire.

A climber died after falling 100-feet on Ben Nevis in Scotland and a search was underway last night for two girls feared to have fallen through ice while skating on a lake near Scotstown in the Republic of Ireland.

As if the country had not suffered enough with the gales and flooding, which devastated large areas in November, and the heavy snow that paralysed air and rail services last week, last night's Hogmanay celebrations also suffered from the wintery weather. Several official fireworks displays and outdoor concerts to mark midnight in Liverpool and Londonderry were cancelled when Northern Ireland and western regions of the country became the first to be affected by the heavy snow.

In Edinburgh, up to 100,000 Hogmanay partygoers due to attend the city centre festivities, which included an open air concert at Edinburgh Castle by Moby, were bracing themselves for snow and sleet showers, cold winds and treacherous conditions underfoot.

In Glasgow, smaller-scale celebrations were given an early chill as snow began falling across western and central Scotland yesterday afternoon. In Belfast, organisers of a concert outside City Hall featuring Jools Holland and the Bootleg Beatles said their performance would continue as planned.

Although no large-scale events took place in London last night, today's New Year's Day Parade through the West End is expected to go ahead, with organisers predicting that more than a million people will turn out to watch the event.

The weather was expected to improve today, but the Meterological Office issued warnings yesterday morning of severe blizzards throughout the UK. Milder air travelling northeastwards from the Atlantic collided with the cold air lying over Britain yesterday. In the northern Cairngorms, climbers and walkers were warned of a high risk of avalanches, as fresh snow settled on frost and earlier snow falls.

"Accumulations of 10cm [4in] are expected in many northern and eastern areas, with 20cm [8in] or more over hills," the Met Office said. "In addition, south-easterly winds will increase to gale force, gusting to 70mph in exposed areas and giving rise to blizzard conditions with considerable drifting of snow, particularly over higher ground."

The Met Office added that the snow would produce localised flooding when the snow and frozen ground began to thaw out over the next few days. In many areas, rain and sleet could run quickly off the frozen ground, a spokesman warned, although the weather would become generally milder.

Meanwhile, the remaining easyJet passengers stranded in hotels around Luton airport on Saturday night were finally flown to Glasgow late yesterday morning, after the airline worked through the night to end the chaos that severely disrupted its schedules. The airline said that all its passengers had reached their destinations by Sunday morning.

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