Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

UK braced for horrendous weather

A forest scene in County Durham after more heavy snow hit the region

Britain is bracing itself for more horrendous weather conditions which are believed to have claimed a first victim, closed hundreds of schools and brought travel chaos.

A landslide and floodwater in Cornwall, thought to have been triggered by torrential rain, smashed through a block of flats partially collapsing the building. Emergency crews and specialist investigators found a woman's body after picking through debris at the Veronica flats in Looe.

The body is believed to be that of Susan Norman, who is in her 60s and police said was unaccounted for, having not been heard from since returning to the flats on Thursday night. More than a dozen residents in Sandplace Road were evacuated after most of the building's front-facing wall crumbled away, with debris and mud crashing on to the back of the property from the road behind it.

More flooding is expected in the South West as heavy rain continued while residents mopped up. Further north, snow blanketed many areas and closed several hundred schools. As forecasters warned this month could be the coldest March in 50 years, officials issued weather and travel warnings dashing any hopes of spring. Thousands of youngsters got a day off school as several hundred shut their doors.

Up to 8in (20.3cm) of snow is expected to hit the worst-affected parts of north west England, North Wales and south west Scotland. Higher areas could even see up to 16in (40.6cm), while bitterly cold gale-force winds create blizzard-like conditions and plunge temperatures down to well below freezing.

John Lee, forecaster with MeteoGroup, said it could be the coldest March in 50 years. He said the average temperature expected for central England at this time of year is 6C (42.8F), but so far this month the average is 2.2 degrees below that - at 3.8C (38.8F). That is significantly colder than last March, when averages were 8.3C (46.9F) - 2.3 degrees above the expected average.

"Comparing it to similar winters, it's provisionally going to be the coldest March in 50 years, although that can't be confirmed until we reach the end of the month," Mr Lee said. He referred to 1962 - when average temperatures were even colder, at 2.8C (37F), adding: "That will take some beating. But the way we are going it looks like we are heading towards being the coldest March since then."

Electricity North West said about 1,500 properties in Cumbria remained without power but repair work was being held back by road closures, preventing access to some communities. The company is considering using a helicopter to transport engineers.

She said: "Engineers have been out during the day trying to restore power to parts of Cumbria after supplies were affected by the poor weather overnight. While many supplies were quickly restored around 1,500 customers remain off supply this evening.

"Several roads have been closed by police for safety reasons due to the snow, making it impossible for our engineers to carry out repairs. Our crews are working in extremely difficult conditions and we are getting to sites and restoring as quickly as we can."

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