UK

UK Weather: Wintry Weather Could Disrupt Easter Weekend

25/03/2013 21:50 GMT | Updated 25/03/2013 21:52 GMT

The battle against dangerously wintry weather is set to continue across much of the UK, forecasters have warned, as thousands in Scotland braced themselves for a fourth night without power.

The Met Office extended its level 3 cold weather alert until Friday as hundreds of homes remained without power, many high-level transport routes stayed impassible and farmers battled with deep snow to keep livestock alive.

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The snow has caused serious problems in many parts of the country

A Met Office warning stated: "Bitterly cold easterly winds will persist this week, bringing snow showers to north-east England and light snow flurries across other areas of England.

"With lying snow and partial snow melt during the daytimes, icy conditions are likely during the nights."

The Met Office also issued fresh yellow warnings of snow and ice, while the AA said its patrols have faced a "winter war zone" over the last few days.

The breakdown firm said it has dealt with more than 1,100 call-outs to people who have got stuck in snow, ice or floodwater since Thursday - including more than 150 on Monday.

In the west of Scotland, thousands of people are spending a fourth night without power after it emerged that two electricity pylons were toppled by sheets of ice and snow.

Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) said that 3,300 customers in Kintyre, Argyll, and on the Isle of Arran will remain cut off over Monday night.

This number is down from 5,000 earlier in the day as around 400 engineers continue their efforts to restore supplies, it said.

The provider said it is the first time in the company's history that two of its metal pylons have come down. It said the last time a pylon was felled by severe weather was in 1987, in the north of Scotland.

An SSE spokesman said: "Instances of significant damage to the electricity network infrastructure have been among the worst seen for 30 years, with the weight of line icing pressurising the transmission lines around Crossaig where transmission towers were felled by the conditions.

"Transmission overhead lines staff have started working to make towers safe and carry out temporary repairs after finally gaining access to the location earlier today."

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A gritter ploughs a lonely furrow along a remote road in Scotland

The continuing Arctic conditions are in stark contrast to this week last year when headlines proclaimed Britain hotter than Madrid or California, with sun-seekers heading to the beach to enjoy an early spring heatwave.

On 24 March last year, Porthmadog in North Wales saw the warmest temperature, reaching 21.7C (71F) - making it hotter than Madrid, Rome, Athens, Barcelona and Monte Real in Portugal.

Now, the odds are shortening on the first white Easter in five years, just as the clocks are due to go forward for British Summer Time.

As well as Scotland, engineers have been continuing their battle to restore power to hundreds of homes across parts of Northern Ireland and Cumbria.

Helicopters were helping in the operation in Northern Ireland, where snow drifts and abandoned vehicles hampered efforts to restore power to 800 homes and businesses.

More than 140,000 customers who lost power when the wintry blast struck the eastern counties of the region last Thursday and Friday have since had supply restored.

In northern England, many cross-Pennine routes remained blocked by drifting snow, including the Snake Pass and Woodhead Pass, between Manchester and South Yorkshire.

One motorist returning to his buried car today near Denholme, West Yorkshire, said it was the worst he had seen for more than 30 years.

John Davis said he had left his Seat on Friday on his way home from work and had decided to try to dig it out on Monday.

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In parts othe UK, the work of clearing roads has only just begun

"I'm taking a day off to try to rescue myself," Mr Davis said. "It's crazy. I've not seen anything like this since 1977, when I was a kid."

Nick Prebble, a forecaster for MeteoGroup, the weather division for the Press Association, said the cold weather was expected to last for at least a few more days, although there will be a respite from the heavy snowfalls.

He said: "The cold and dry weather will stay with us and it will be a similar picture for the next three days. Temperatures are going to struggle, generally reaching 2-3C (35.6-37.4F). It will feel even colder though, because of the easterly breeze bringing in colder air."

A man found dead in deep snow after he started walking home in severe weather in Lancashire was named by police.

The body of Gary Windle, 25, was found by a farmer in Brierfield, near Burnley, at about 1.30pm on Saturday.

Lancashire Police said his death was not being treated as suspicious and there were indications it was a "very tragic incident" after he started walking home from a night out with friends on Friday.

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It has proved a freezing March

Severe weather is also thought to have led to the death of a woman in Cornwall.

The woman, named locally as Susan Norman, died on Friday when her house in Looe, Cornwall, collapsed during a landslip following torrential rain.

The AA said patrols have had to fight their way to some customers through snowdrifts higher than their rescue vehicles and often had to move abandoned cars to get to stranded people.

Darron Burness, the AA's head of special operations, said: "Conditions in places over the weekend were like a winter war zone - it was challenging enough in a four-wheel-drive, never mind a normal car on summer tyres.

"Some drivers put themselves and others at risk by venturing out against police advice."

By 5pm on Monday, the AA said it had attended around 12,500 breakdowns nationwide, peaking at around 1,700 every hour. It said it expected to exceed 16,000 call-outs for the day, compared with around 10,500 on an average Monday.

Bookies Ladbrokes now has a white Easter as odds-on, and is offering 5/1 that it will be the coldest Easter weekend ever.

The firm has also offered odds on Sunday's University Boat Race being disrupted by ice on the Thames.