UK: Transport Inquiry Launched Amid Winter Chaos

© Agence France-PresseGatwick airport is expected to remain shut until at least 6am on Friday
Travel networks were paralysed on Thursday as severe weather conditions affected roads, railways and airports while an urgent review of the country's transport systems got under way.

Britain's second busiest airport, London Gatwick, was closed for the second consecutive day due to the hostile weather conditions and is expected to remain shut until tomorrow morning.

Edinburgh Airport was also closed again this morning and was expecting to reopen at 4:00 pm this afternoon.

Hundreds of rail commuters spent a freezing night aboard an abandoned train and many other trains were cancelled in southeast England. Southern trains suspended its services today while Southeastern was running an emergency timetable.

About half of Eurostar train services between London and Paris, and London and Brussels, were cancelled today because of bad weather, a spokeswoman said.

On the roads, there were closures on the M20 in Kent due to hazardous driving conditions, while police in Essex, Sussex and Surrey advised people to make only essential or emergency trips.

Yesterday motoring organisation AA attended more than 11,300 incidents.

In Crawley, West Sussex, a motorcyclist was killed in a crash involving a lorry at 5:10 am, and a woman died after falling into a freezing lake at Pontefract racecourse, West Yorkshire.

The government today started an urgent review of how transport systems were performing amid criticism of Britain's preparedness for the icy conditions and a lack of communication to commuters.

Better Earth

White-out UK: Satellite pic shows nation under blanket of snow & ice

University of Dundee pic reveals extent of ice-covered UK
This striking satellite image shows the extent of the big freeze that is currently paralysing the UK.

The snow and ice almost completely covers the entire nation and the Met Office is warning of worse to come.

The University of Dundee Satellite Receiving Station captured the startling image at 11.45am today from the NASA satellite Terra.

The white-out that is affecting virtually the entire country is clearly visible.

The latest Met Office forecast confirms the snow and icy conditions have continued to cause widespread disruption across many parts of the UK as temperatures fell as low as -21.1 °C at Altnaharra in Scotland.

Met Office severe weather warnings are in force across Scotland, eastern England, East Anglia and the South East, where further snow is likely to fall.


Snow strands hundreds on New York highway

© AP Photo/David DupreyVehicles are stranded on the New York State Thruway during a winter storm in Buffalo, N.Y., Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010.
Hundreds of cold and hungry motorists were stranded on a western New York highway Thursday after an accident caused a backup and the idling trucks and cars got stuck overnight in heavy snow. Authorities said 16 miles of eastbound lanes along Interstate 90 were shut Thursday in Buffalo's eastern suburbs, along with a 10-mile westbound stretch. Matt Welling was hauling a double tractor-trailer full of groceries when traffic came to a standstill a few miles east of Buffalo.

He spent the night "sitting back, playing a little Solitaire on the computer, taking a nap," the Wegmans driver said at midmorning, 8 1/2 hours into his wait. "I'm pretty chilly, hungry. A nice cup of coffee would do pretty well right now," he said by cell phone. State Trooper Daniel Golinski said the highway was closed shortly before 3 a.m. Thursday after vehicles backed up behind a truck accident were buried in blowing snow. The truck jackknifed around 8 p.m. Wednesday and has been removed, but crews were still working Thursday to free the stranded vehicles, Golinski said. "There's a lot of work to do yet," he said.

The storm buried the southern neighborhoods of Buffalo and the city's southern and eastern suburbs under two feet of snow, but largely spared downtown. "Very, very light flurries are blowing in the air, but streets downtown are pavement. Maybe an inch is on the ground," police spokesman Michael DeGeorge said from headquarters.


UK: Millions endure second nightmare journey home from work as forecasters predict eight inches of snow tonight

© PACrawling along: Motorists edge their way forward in the centre of York today
  • Woman dies after falling into freezing lake in West Yorkshire
  • Body of man in his 50s pulled from stream in Surrey
  • Eight inches of snow forecast tonight for London and South East
  • 900 flights cancelled as Gatwick and Edinburgh airports close
  • Shops running out of basics as lorries struggle to deliver
  • Passengers stranded overnight on freezing trains in South East
  • Police advise people not to go out unless absolutely necessary
  • Temperatures set to fall to -6c, with winds making it feel even colder
Britain's workforce was tonight embroiled in a second night of snow chaos with forecasters warning there is worse to come.

Police in several counties have been urging people to leave work early - with up to eight more inches of snow predicted in London and the South East tonight.

Eurostar said that half of its services would be cancelled today. It advised passengers to only make essential journeys.

Bizarro Earth

US: Winds lash the East, knock out power; roads flood

© AP Photo/Montgomery Advertiser, Mickey WelshPeggy Gaines looks at what is left of an awning and fence at her home in Prattville, Ala. following a severe storm on Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2010.
New York - Wind-whipped rain knocked out power Wednesday to thousands along the East Coast, closed the Statue of Liberty and delayed flights at three major airports. At least three people were killed.

Tornado watches were issued for parts of the Virginias, and sandbags were handed out in Washington, D.C., to protect homes from flooding. Thousands were without electricity in the mid-Atlantic region and New York, and some schools delayed openings.

Suspected tornadoes have touched down from Louisiana to South Carolina since Monday as part of the storm system, which reached the Northeast late Wednesday, with colder air turning the rain into snow.


Heavy snow causes flight chaos in UK

© ReutersFlights cancelled ... planes sit on the tarmac at Gatwick Airport
Heavy snow grounded all flights at London's Gatwick Airport on Wednesday in the worst early winter weather to hit Britain in almost two decades which could cost the economy billions of pounds.

British insurer RSA warned that bad weather in the run up to Christmas would have a major impact on the economy and could lead to significant losses for struggling businesses.

"This cold front couldn't come at a worse time for the UK," said David Greaves, director of RSA.

"If we lose just one fifth of our daily GDP through companies not being able to open and people cancelling spending plans on events and shopping, we're looking at about £1.2 billion every working day," he said.


Heavy snow hits airports and roads across Europe

© AFPHeavy snow is pictured on cars in Linlithgow, in Scotland, on November 30, 2010. The earliest widespread snowfall of a British winter since 1993 blanketed Scotland and northeast England at the weekend and the freezing weather has started moving down England's east coast.
Snow and freezing temperatures severely disrupted airports in Germany and Britain and caused chaos and deaths on roads across Europe on Tuesday. More than 200 flights were cancelled at Frankfurt airport in Germany, the continent's third busiest, while southern German states were blanketed by snow. Large parts of Poland were covered in thick snow, causing hundreds of accidents on the roads and at least four people were killed on snowbound roads in the Czech Republic.

It was so cold in France that electricity network RTE warned of cuts in the supply as the country looked set to top record demand levels while 20 percent of high-speed train services to the hard hit southeast were cancelled. Switzerland suffered its coldest November night for 45 years as temperatures plunged below minus 30 degrees Celsius (minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit), according to national weather service Meteosuisse. Even Spain and Portugal were shivering after snow fell in the northern half of the Iberian peninsula.

Britain has been taken by surprise by its earliest widespread snowfall since 1993, forcing hundreds of schools in Scotland and rural parts of England to close and causing treacherous conditions on roads and at smaller airports. Scotland and northeast England had fresh snowfall and the freezing weather has started moving down England's east coast while London had its first sprinkling of snow this winter. London City Airport, a popular departure point for business travellers, was forced at one point to suspend all flights because of snow and ice before resuming with a heavily interrupted service.

Bizarro Earth

Flooding leaves deadly trail of destruction in Venezuela

© AFPA girl carries a mattress, rescued from her house after a landslide due to heavy rains at Roca Tarpeya neighborhood, in Caracas. Days of driving rain have sparked massive flooding in Venezuela that has killed at least 21 people and left thousands homeless, Vice President Elias Jaua said Tuesday.
Torrential rains in Venezuela have killed 17 people, closed airports, blocked roads and destroyed thousands of homes in the past few days, sparking regional declarations of disaster, officials said Tuesday.

President Hugo Chavez was being urged by several governors to declare a national state of emergency, with fears mounting that the death toll could rise because of the number of people listed as missing.

Official figures said 56,000 people had been affected by the tropical rains and 11,000 homes were destroyed.

Chavez himself late Monday spoke of 15 deaths, but the governor of the northern state of Vargas, Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro, on Tuesday said another two people subsequently died, bringing the total to 17.

The international airport in Caracas was still operating, but at reduced capacity, and the highway leading to it was cut in several spots by mudlsides.

An electrical blackout caused by the storms also limited operations at the country's biggest oil refinery and paralysed another, smaller refinery.

Both facilities were in the state of Falcon, in the northwest, where Chavez declared a 90-day emergency.

Cloud Lightning

Torrential rains leave 21 dead in Venezuela

© Carlos Garcia Rawlins/ReutersA woman cries after being rescued from her house, which had collapsed during torrential rains, in the Tamanaquito area of Caracas, Venezuela, on Tuesday. At least 21 people have died and thousands have been forced from their houses after weeks of downpours.
Flooding and landslides unleashed by torrential rains have killed at least 21 people in Venezuela, forced thousands from their homes and idled an oil refinery.

The death toll rose on Tuesday as authorities confirmed eight additional deaths in Caracas and nearby states. Vice President Elias Jaua said there had been 21 deaths nationwide since Thursday and about 5,600 people fled their homes.

Gov. Henrique Capriles decreed a "state of alarm" in Miranda state, which includes parts of the capital, aiming to speed aid to flood victims. Capriles, speaking to Venezuelan television station Globovision, called on President Hugo Chavez to declare an emergency in the state.

Chavez has already declared an emergency in the western state of Falcon, which has been particularly hard hit, and the military has been dispatched to aid victims.


The Ice Age Cometh: Ireland records coldest November temperatures since 1947

© John FahyA rare sighting of a bottlenose dolphin breaching at Killiney Bay in front of a snow-covered Dalkey Island, Co Dublin.
Record low November temperatures are set to be broken again today with very cold easterly winds and further heavy snowfalls. Met Éireann said that a wind chill factor would combine with heavy snowfalls of up to 25cm (10in) in east Leinster by tonight, making travel difficult and reducing temperatures.

Met Éireann said the wind chill "will make it very much colder than recent days" and added there was no sign of a thaw this side of the weekend.

Water authorities have warned of disruption to supplies which they say would "almost inevitably" follow the current cold spell.

Record low November temperatures were broken at weather stations in recent days, while Dublin airport recorded the lowest November temperatures since 1947 on Sunday.

The heaviest snowfalls today are expected to be in Wicklow, Dublin and Louth but snow is also expected to be heavy in Ulster, Connacht and, by tonight, in Waterford and the south coast. Scattered snow showers are predicted for the midlands.

The Government's emergency planning taskforce met yesterday to co-ordinate information on public transport and travel arrangements as well as efforts to keep key national and strategic routes open and clear city footpaths of ice.