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Wild Weather: Winter 1947 in Leicestershire
Plant is covered in the early morning frost
"Wednesday 29th January was memorably brilliantly sunny and bitterly cold"

As part of Wild Weather Week, a retired Met Office researcher recalls a bitter winter in Leicestershire in 1947.

Dr Peter Rowntree, also a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological, used to analyse the weather and predict the climate.

Wild Weather Week (13-20 September 2010) looked at extreme climatic conditions in the United Kingdom.

"On Saturday 18th January 1947 I started a fairly mild 'flu' which allowed me to watch the onset of the cold spell the following week at home.

BBC Leicester's Des Coleman on wild weather in the East Midlands

"Fog on the Sunday, cold east winds by Tuesday with a few snowflakes on the Wednesday afternoon, more snow bringing a shallow cover on the Thursday.

"Then from noon on the Friday, I watched the snowflakes falling for four hours building a thick cover on a lawn which did not reappear till mid-March!

"Wednesday 29th January was memorably brilliantly sunny and bitterly cold - maximum temperature -4oC, minimum -12 oC the next night.

"A thaw was predicted for Saturday 1st February but instead heavy snow fell throughout Sunday, and, with only a brief turn to rain on the Monday morning, continued to Tuesday evening.

"The Leicester Mercury (LM) reported the worst blizzard for 25 years at Coalville, with two feet of snow and 10 feet drifts, and that several of the county's main roads were blocked.

"Forty Leicestershire villages were cut off (McCaskill and Hudson: Frozen in time (2006) (MH)). A major road in Leicester city centre, Charles St, was covered in sheet ice (LM).

"There followed a period of bitterly cold winds from between east and north, almost continuously overcast, with temperatures below freezing from the afternoon of Tuesday 4th February till the afternoon of Sunday 23rd, apart from a few hours early on Monday 10th.

Snowmen relaxing on holiday
There were good sides to the snow - building a snowman, snowballing, sledging in the local parks
Peter Rowntree, Met Office

"There were good sides to the snow - building a snowman, snowballing, sledging in the local parks - though I suffered badly from chilblains.

"More seriously, the disruption of transport, including coal trains, led to power cuts and then restrictions on use of domestic electricity for five hours each day, under threat of fines or imprisonment.

"The LM for Saturday 8th February reported that In Leicester, 80,000 out of a workforce of 130,000 had had to stop work; cinema matinees were cancelled (though soccer matches continued on snow-covered pitches). Prayers for better weather were to be offered in churches.

"The end of the continuous frost saw the lowest temperatures with morning minima of -9 oC, -13 oC and -14 oC on Sunday 23rd to Tuesday 25th, with only brief early afternoon thaws, though more obvious melting followed under cloudy skies on 26th and 27th.

"Daytime thaws with no snow for the next few days perhaps gave false hopes, but on the evening of Tuesday 4th snow set in. Through the next night, a near-gale drove snow against our bedroom window with a sound I have never heard since.

"By morning, the indoor window sill carried a narrow drift of snowflakes forced under the woodwork. Eight inches of new snow with a two foot drift lay in our fairly sheltered garden. On a windy corner down the road, the old snow had been swept clear by the gale, leaving bare ice.

"Most children and teachers still got to school as they did throughout the winter!

"The temperature failed to reach freezing point that day and with clearing skies the Thursday night gave probably the lowest March temperatures of the century with a local minimum of -12 oC.

"A hundred villages were cut off in the county and neighbouring Northants (MH). Alternating thaws and heavy snow or cold rain from 9th to 15th heralded the end of the cold spell and brought the infamous March 1947 floods as meltwater and rain ran off over the frozen ground.

Coldest dayColdest Day -23.3Caldecott on 13th January 1987



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