Blizzards and Heavy Snowfall Division

Dr. RICHARD J. WILD
(TORRO DIRECTOR AND HEAD OF DIVISION)

The TORRO Division of blizzards and heavy snowfall was founded in 1998 in conjunction with my PhD thesis entitled 'A spatial and temporal analysis of heavy snowfalls across Great Britain between the years 1861-1999' that commenced in September 1994 at the University of Derby. I successfully completed my doctorate in the summer of 2005. The merits of this TORRO division are undeniably linked to the PhD research undertaken from the following kinds of publications: Daily, Monthly, and Annual Weather Reports for the period 1861-2006, publications including British Rainfall, the Snow Survey of Great Britain, most relevant academic and meteorological journals and miscellaneous material including newspaper cuttings and letters.

In conclusion, 654 heavy snowfall events covering a duration of 1214 days have been noted where heavy snowfalls/blizzards/snowstorms or snowfalls 13cm or more have indeed occurred over Great Britain* between the years 1861-2006.

(* Since the year 2000, the heavy snowfall area was extended to include the whole of the United Kingdom)

The year 1861 was chosen as the first year of the PhD study, to coincide with the start of Lamb's daily classification. For dates to be included in this review the following criteria have been set:

  • 13cm (5 inches) or more of snow must have fallen somewhere in Great Britain in 24 hours (not accumulated depths).
  • A particular snow event has been described as a blizzard or a snowstorm.
  • The snow event has been described as heavy. For a date to be included, the term 'heavy' describing a snow event is only used where the other two criteria above are not known, especially on dates in the early part of this study where the word 'blizzard' was not officially used to describe a snowstorm and/or where snow depth measurements were not undertaken.

Some dates where the above criteria could have been met may have been excluded, due to insufficient authentic information. In contrast certain snow events have been overtly stated as 'blizzards/heavy snowfalls' in zealous editorial articles in the media, when this was clearly incorrect.

SUMMARY OF HEAVY SNOWFALLS IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 2006
The year 2006, was an average year with a total of 9 heavy snowfall days. Most of the heavy snowfalls occurred in the month of March.

Tuesday 28 February 2006 - Saturday 4 March 2006
Heavy snow showers affected many districts of the UK over this 4-day period. The areas that sustained the worst of the snow were N Scotland, E Scotland, NE England, N Ireland, Wales and East Anglia. Heavy snow showers also affected CS England, NW England, the Midlands and SW England.

On the 28th February, in N Ireland, the heaviest snow affected Carrickfergus, Newtownabbey and Ballyclare in County Antrim. In Glengormley, the Glebe Road was forced to close for a time and the snow also caused several minor accidents on the Upper Springfield Road in west Belfast.

In Scotland, 11 vehicles were involved in two separate road traffic accidents on the A90 Stonehaven to Aberdeen road in Grampian. Three articulated lorries and 3 cars collided at approximately 11:00, just south of the Bridge of Muchalls, blocking the northbound carriageway. Approximately 40 minutes later, 5 cars were involved in an accident on the same stretch of road near to Stonehaven. Also in Grampian, the A93 Braemar to Blairgowrie road was closed at Cairnwell due to white-out conditions and high winds; while the B974 Banchory to Fettercairn road was blocked with snow at Cairn o' Mount. The snow also forced many airports to close for a time in Scotland. These included Aberdeen, Kirkwall, Sumburgh, Inverness and Stornoway. The snow forced all the schools on the Shetland Islands to close, 148 in Aberdeenshire and 70 schools in Highland were also closed or partially closed. Up to 15cm of snow fell across parts of the Cairngorms, while a similar amount fell at Loch Flemington, Highland.

In East Anglia, snow caused several road traffic accidents in Norfolk, including one on the North Walsham Road near the White Horse Public House at Crostwick. In North Yorkshire, sporadic heavy snowfalls in the Scarborough and Whitby areas brought dangerous conditions to some routes. The A64 Scarborough to York road and the A171 coastal road between Scarborough and Whitby were the worst affected. The A170 Scarborough to Thirsk road was forced to close at Sutton Bank following several accidents, one involving a gritter lorry.

On the 1 March 2006, in northern and western districts of Northern Ireland, 13cm of snow fell in places including Strabane, Donemana, Craigavon, Ballymena and Ballymoney.

Heavy snow also affected many parts of Wales, namely Denbighshire, Flintshire, Powys, Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Gwynedd, West Glamorgan and Carmarthenshire forcing more than 400 schools to close. On the roads, the snow resulted in the A5 closure for a few hours due to an accident between Bethesda and Bangor, Gwynedd where a lorry jack-knifed. The snow also closed sections of the A55 across N Wales. In Scotland, further snow showers continued closing more schools across northern and eastern districts. A monk convicted of sex charges had his sentence deferred because his solicitor was stuck in a snowdrift. Father Mark Paterson, 46, appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court, Grampian however, defence counsel David Moggach was stuck in snow near Stonehaven, Grampian. Further roads across Scotland were closed including the A957 Stonehaven to Crathes, the A92 Stonehaven to Inverbervie and the B974 Banchory to Fettercairn at Cairn o' Mount all as a result of drifting snow. The snow also resulted in a train being stuck in snowdrifts near Laurencekirk, Grampian. Glenlivet, Highland reported snow lying on the ground to a depth of 18cm.

On the 2nd, further heavy snow showers continued across northern and eastern Scotland, N Ireland and Wales. In N Wales, the A55 at Rhuallt Hill in Denbighshire was closed for a short time during the early morning due to heavy snow. Up to 13cm of snow fell across parts of Ceredigion. In Merseyside, 1 person was killed and several more injured in a car crash thought to have been caused by wintry weather conditions on the M57. All 3 lanes of the southbound carriageway towards Liverpool were closed as a result of the accident, which involved several vehicles. The snowfall during the early morning also disrupted some rail routes and some Mersey ferry services were cancelled.

On the 3rd, further heavy snow showers continued to affect N Scotland, keeping hundreds of schools across the region closed for the fourth consecutive day. The snow forced Inverness, Campbeltown, Islay, Kirkwall, Stornoway and Tiree Airports to close, while flights in and out of Aberdeen and Edinburgh Airport were disrupted. In Aberdeen, Grampian, Dianne Eveleigh was hit by a bolt of lightning as she walked to work during a snowstorm. The 27-year-old was saved from serious injury by a combination of her umbrella and rubber boots.

Snow showers also affected parts of central and southern Scotland, particularly Tayside, Fife, Perthshire and Dumfries and Galloway. In Glasgow and Edinburgh, the snow closed schools and caused traffic chaos. In a 20 minute snowstorm, 8cm of snow fell across Edinburgh. By the morning of the 3rd, Aberdeen, Grampian had sustained 25cm of snow since the 28th.

In N England and N Wales, heavy snow showers estimated up to 13cm in places affected many districts. The M6 south of Lancaster, Lancashire was badly affected by snow and the A588 near Fleetwood, Lancashire, became impassable. In North Yorkshire, heavy snow showers forced drivers to abandon their cars at the roadside on the A171 between Whitby and Scarborough when the route became treacherous and impassable. Heavy snow also forced the closure of the A59 road between Blubberhouses and Skipton. In West Yorkshire, snow caused the rugby league match between Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers to be postponed due to a snow covered pitch.

During the 4th, heavy snow showers continued to affect N Scotland, E Scotland and N Wales. Between 10-15cm of snow fell in the Highlands. The Lecht ski centre in Grampian received more than 2000 visitors, making it the best weekend for skiers in nearly 20 years. Aberdeen Airport, Grampian recorded 26cm of snow lying on the ground by midday - beating the previous March record of 25cm set in 1958, the year meteorological records began at the airport.

Saturday 11 March 2006 - Sunday 12 March 2006
Heavy snow fell across N England, N Wales and S Scotland. Several roads including the A590, A595, and the A74 were among the routes affected across Cumbria. Buses were cancelled in Barrow and Kendal after the operator Stagecoach said three vehicles became stranded in heavy snowfalls around the lakes. The M74 was also forced to close at Beattock, Lanarkshire for a time, while the Erskine Bridge, which crosses the River Clyde linking Renfrewshire and West Dunbartonshire, was forced to close for several hours.

In Glasgow, a nightclub, a bus station and a hotel were opened to provide accommodation for 3,000 people stranded in the city centre after nearly 25cm of snow hit taxi and bus services. In Dumfries and Galloway, Ayrshire and Lanarkshire, the heavy snow left 5,000 homes without electricity and forcing many schools not to open on the 13th March. In East Ayrshire, an RAF helicopter was called out to airlift a pregnant teenager to hospital after an ambulance struggled to cope with snow-covered roads. The teenager, Shirley Anne Hodge later gave birth to a daughter named Skye, at Ayrshire Central Hospital in Irvine. Both were reported to be doing well. Also in Ayrshire, a Royal Navy rescue helicopter picked up three walkers who became stranded at Loch Doon, south of Prestwick, while in central Scotland, two climbers on Ben Nevis were taken to hospital after spending the night stranded on the mountain. The snow also forced the postponement of the Scottish League First Division encounter between Hamilton and Stranraer. This particular snowstorm was regarded as the worst snowfall in W Scotland in March for 50 years. Glasgow and Edinburgh Airport was forced to close for a time due to the snow, while Liverpool's John Lennon Airport saw some delays.

A woman in Wallend, Cumbria, who suffered a suspected spinal injury in a sledging accident, was also rescued by RAF helicopter. In Cheshire, police said the M53 was "passable with care" after snow caused problems near to Ellesmere Port and on the Merseyside border. In N Wales, the snow was very heavy around the Llandudno, Wrexham and Penmaenmawr region, with snowdrifts reported to be as high as 33cm. Snow depths noted over the period, included 39cm at Ardtalnaig, 28cm at Cambo, 25cm at Corsock and 22cm at Cowdenbeath.

Wednesday 22 March 2006
Heavy snow fell in parts of Scotland, particularly across northern districts. The Strathpeffer, Highland region sustained 23cm of snow.

Monday 10 April 2006
More than 13cm of snow fell in parts of Kent, East Sussex, West Sussex, Hampshire and southern London. In Kent, the M20 was covered with a thin layer of snow which made driving hazardous, while parts of the A21 near Tunbridge Wells, the A22 at East Grinstead and the A26 at Eridge Green were all forced to close. The snow also caused the abandonment of vehicles in Detling Hill, near Maidstone, Kent. The snow also brought down trees and branches onto the railway lines between Tonbridge and Paddock Wood, Kent and Hastings, East Sussex and Tonbridge, Kent forcing thousands of rail passengers to take replacement buses. The snow also brought down overhead cables, severing power to over 8,000 homes across some districts of East Sussex and Kent.



For more information, news and research on heavy snowfalls or blizzards across the United Kingdom and the World, my personal website www.drrichardwild.co.uk should be cited.

If you have any interesting snow articles/questions/pictures/information of your own, or my personal website www.drrichardwild.co.uk fails to answer a particular question you would like answering about snow, please contact me or send the information to:

Dr Richard J. Wild
WeatherNet Ltd
Kingsland House
21 Hinton Road
Bournemouth
Dorset
BH1 2DE

Telephone: 00 44 1202 411122 (General enquiries about snow)
Telephone: 0906 1100445 (Press enquiries about snow (UK only))* Fax: 00 44 1202 314064
Email: rick@weathernet.co.uk

* All calls are charged direct to your telephone bill at £1.50 per minute.

Acknowledgements: The author wishes to thank Mrs Marina Wild, the staff at the BADC, Chilton, Oxfordshire and the staff of the National Meteorological Library and Archive at the Meteorological Office in Exeter, Devon for their help in the research and writing of this information on this website.