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Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 18:28 GMT
Snow and gales sweep the UK
A snow plough on the North Yorkshire moors
Snow ploughs have been out on many roads
Heavy snow and freezing winds are causing havoc in many parts of the UK.

Forecasters have warned that the blizzards will bring up to 15 centimetres of snow in some areas, with the wind chill taking the overnight temperatures as low as -16C.

Snowploughs have been struggling to keep roads open, with many short journeys taking hours and drivers being warned to take extra care in the treacherous conditions.

Police in the Grampians are escorting cars off the A90 in convoys of 30, after some became stuck in the "horrendous" conditions and a 12-mile traffic jam developed.

'Series of accidents'

BBC weather presenter Helen Willets said anyone considering venturing out on Thursday night would be better off staying at home.

She said: "There will be a severe frost tonight, with temperatures well below freezing."

Although the snow showers will die out, ice on the roads will mean dangerous driving conditions on Friday morning, she added.

In the east of Lincolnshire 10,000 people were left without heating and light, and around 30 schools closed early.

A cyclist struggles through the Whitley Bay blizzards
Police have urged caution on the roads
Police have asked motorists not to use the M40 in Oxfordshire because of major traffic problems caused by the snow.

AA Roadwatch reported that many of the travel problems caused by the weather were affecting the Thames Valley region.

"There have been several problems on the M40, with a series of accidents because of the heavy snowfall.

"It seems to be mainly affecting Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire."

By the evening the bad weather had spread to Berkshire and London, which unusually saw snow settle for a second time in one month.

In Surrey, a girl was killed and six other children injured when a tree fell in the grounds of a primary school, although it is not yet clear if the heavy weather was directly to blame.

Schools closed

Elsewhere on the roads major problems were seen on the M6 in both directions around Birmingham.

And visibility was bad on the M4 due to the heavy snow showers.

A crash involving a lorry near the junction with the M5 was the worst of a series of accidents.

Snow showers were also reported in Wales, and blizzards swept across north-east Scotland, bringing white-out conditions to many parts of the region.

Dog walker in snow
A dog walker fights through the snow

About 120 schools were either closed or open only for children who were not dependent on school transport. All schools in Orkney were also closed.

Conditions south of Aberdeen were particularly bad. Several drivers got stranded in drifting snow on the A92 and a snow plough also got stuck for a period.

In North Yorkshire, police urged motorists to take care on the roads on the East Coast and the North York Moors after heavy snow.

People were advised to avoid the A64 Malton to Scarborough road because of extreme drifts at Rillington, while lorries became stuck on the A171 at Cloughton Bank.

'Very tricky'

Snow drifts were also reported in the Pocklington and Driffield areas of Humberside.

Police said drivers should take increasing care as snow showers turn to blizzards in very high winds on the Lincolnshire coast.

Cabourne Hill, between Grimsby and Caistor, a traditional indicator of dangerous conditions, was said to be "very tricky" because of snow and ice.

Up to four inches of snow fell in Surrey and Sussex, with major routes such as the M3 and A3 seeing numerous accidents.

Snow has caused disruptions on some London Underground lines.

There are no services from 1700 GMT on the following lines: Piccadilly between Acton Town and Rayners Lane; Bakerloo between Harrow & Wealdstone and Queens Park; and the Jubilee between West Hampstead and Stanmore.

The Northern Line has also been hit, with no services between Golders Green and Edgware and between Archway and High Barnet.

The BBC's Nicola Dann
"Snow ploughs have been working all day to keep roads open"
See also:

29 Jan 03 | UK
15 Jan 03 | Scotland
09 Jan 03 | UK
09 Jan 03 | England
08 Jan 03 | England
07 Jan 03 | England
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