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Snowy weather

It is on days like these that I am glad that I work for a web-based business and that I work from home for part of the day anyway. Judging by how severe weather has hit the UK overnight, rendering the UK public transport network immobile, that is just as well. The London Underground – with the exception of the Victoria line – is down. Buses and other transport like trains are severely affected.

I am hearing that this is the heaviest snowfall since 1991. We have already had some severe cold in early January. Whether this is part of a trend I have no idea. But some of us are rediscovering how to cope with severely cold weather in the UK. I have a father who is recovering from a major operation in hospital and may not be able to go home because of the weather.

Take care out there.

42 comments to Snowy weather

  • I spent an hour circling London yesterday evening while being shaken around a little and wondering if and when London’s airports were going to reopen. The alternative was apparently to be diverted to Amsterdam. Readers in places with more extreme climates may not be impressed, but I wouldn’t say I found it greatly enjoyable.

  • Jonathan, I hope your father is doing well.

  • RW

    Is this global warming? Fantastic fun for the kids. Can’t get to school so straight round to the park for snowballing. Magic!

  • Andrew Duffin

    Where is the Dunkirk spirit?

    In the much more severe winters of 1962/3 and 1947, the London buses never stopped.

    We have become a bunch of wimps.

    Pathetic is the only word.

  • Kim du Toit

    The thought of an underground rail service* being disrupted by snow gives one a touch of cognitive dissonance.

    Okay, it made me LOL.

    (*I know, it’s just a name and not all the tracks are underground. Still, perhaps the Underground knobs should visit Chicago to find out how they manage. It’s usually only when temperatures drop below zero — Fahrenheit — that the CTA has any trouble: snow leaves its service largely unaffected.)

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Andrew Duffin, I don’t remember as far back as the dates you mention, but given the run of mild winters we have had for the last 10 or more years, it does not make economic sense for people to shell out billions on snow-moving gear that will only be used for say, once in every few years. A few days of staying at home or taking a few short-cuts makes more sense.

    I am thinking of getting some snow-chains for my car.

    If London was like Canada, etc, then sure, we’d be fully prepared. But London is usually more temperate, so the sort of money that countries like Canada spend does not make sense, at least not yet.

  • There are only two London Underground lines that are entirely underground. These are the Victoria and Waterloo and City lines, and both are operating normally. Most other lines are actually running “partial services” ie there are some trains running on the underground bits.

    I don’t blame London Transport for cancelling buses. We don’t want vehicles that big sliding around in these conditions.

    The temperature is just over freezing and the snow on the ground is getting a bit slushy, and there is a huge amount of snow still falling. It’s going to get very icy this evening.

  • Kevin B

    I concur with Johnathan that it makes little sense for SE England to spend vast sums of money preparing for North American style winters which only happen every decade or so, and where the most disruptive of the effects usually last less than a week.

    However, it makes even less sense for us to spend even vaster, (by orders of magnitude), sums on trying to change the weather by completly screwing up our energy and transport infrastructure.

    As I browse the skeptic websites there is much talk of Maunder minimums, negative PDOs and AMOs, Little Ice Ages and the like, so if we are going to spend huge amounts of our money on climate forecasts, perhaps we should spend some of it on looking at the other things that can cause cyclical climate changes, rather than wasting every penny on ‘proving’ that it’s going to get hotter and it’s all the fault of man’s nasty addiction to a civilisation based on abundant energy.

    Some decent snowploughs would have been pretty useful in the LIA.

    Watts Up With That has a post up at the moment gently taking the piss out of our wonderful Met Office’s seasonal forecasts, which seem to be totally wrong lately. Ever since they proudly announced that they’d factored Global Warming into their medium term models they’ve been forecasting ‘warmer than average’, while mother nature has served up average or cooler than average weather.

    What’s that definition of insanity? Something about doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

  • Steve P

    I blame George Bush.

  • RAB

    I remember 1963 very well.
    We had feet of snow, and then it froze solid for 2 months.
    We were not allowed out into the playground for all that time because it was deemed to dangerous, but the school never closed, we just carried on.
    I do find it a bit pathetic that everything grinds to a halt these days when an itsy bitsy bit of snow falls.
    My dad used to put snow chains on the car and had no trouble at all.
    Yes, hope your dad is ok Johnathan, and can make it home.
    The upside is that I have just been in the park with the dog, who has never seen snow before. She has gone completely doolally, sensuous little beast that she is.
    Snowploughing her nose through the snow, rolling and a tumbling.
    Everyone has a smile on their faces, kids snowballing and sledging….

  • I, for one, welcome our new Global Warming overlords.

  • RAB

    Fine Doc.
    Invite them all round to your house, then we’ll know where to find them when the time comes to string them up!

  • llamas

    I also remember 1963, which was compounded in South London by some epic pea-souper ice-fogs. My dear old Dad (MHRIP) broke his nose when he walked into a lamp-post while wheeling his bike home – he was walking along the kerb to feel his way and never saw it.

    I remeber watching the postman clearing drifted snow so that he could open the standard red letterbox outside our house – so that would have been 4-5 feet deep, I guess?

    But life went on – I don’t recall that school closed at all, although I well-recall that suggestions that it might be time to relax the rules about boys coming to school in shorts were roundly rejected by the Headmaster. MDOD put chains on the Hillman Minx and it was business-as-usual, and the Southern Region electric trains at the bottom of our garden ran apace, third-rails and all.

    I do recall a snowstorm in the winter of 1981 when I was getting to work on a Yamaha 500 cc single trails bike, and gave up trying to get up Sydenham Hill when I was almost squashed by a salt truck sliding down it. There was a Routemaster inelegantly jammed in the mini-roundabout at the bottom of the hill, as I recall.

    I don’t think the UK has had snows like that since, certainly not in the South. But it’s not that unusual.



  • Midwesterner

    I have to admit to a LOL moment when I read that snow had shut down the underground. The first thought that crossed my mind was that it was a new Sven and Ole joke with the punch line “… couldn’t find snow plows that fit in the tunnels”. And yes, I am originally from Chicago where:

    Shortly before the end of his [Bilandic’s] administration, a blizzard struck Chicago and effectively closed down the city. The city’s slow response to the debilitating storm was blamed on Bilandic’s inaction. He lost the primary election to Jane Byrne, a disgruntled former member of his Cabinet, who went on to succeed Bilandic. Many political observers saw Bilandic’s defeat as indicative of the end of Chicago’s Democratic machine. In fact, a public official who is defeated due to perceived failure to respond to a snowstorm is said to be Bilandicked.

    More seriously, like many Americans, I have a mental image of Victorian English winter countryside covered in snow and of London, also. Is this entirely a product of reading the wrong books and watching the wrong movies? Do you guys really not get much snow as a general rule?

  • Trofim

    I remember 1962-3 and don’t remember any big fuss made about it. I was born in March 1947 and the midwife had to dig her way through to our village. When I was in the USSR in the 70’s, I remember that schools were closed at -25 or below.

  • nostalgic

    I remember the 1947 winter very well. I was 8 years old and walked to school ( 3 miles) and snowdrifts way above my little head. And even came home for lunch twice weekly. I seem to recall that the trolley buses kept running, and my first intro to antisocial behaviour came when I hurled a snowball at a passing lorry and the driver lept out of his cab and gave me a right bollocking!

  • llamas

    Why, oh why am I smit so much? Is there a message here . . . .?



  • tranio

    Vancouver has had way more snow than usual this winter. Our buses kept running, though they are single deck and there are no stupid limits on the number of people standing, more weight more traction. Our train system is a Sky Train, it runs above ground on elevated tracks. The only problem they had was some trees falling over onto the tracks because of the weight of snow on the tree branches. Main roads were kept plowed and salted, though the side roads developed big ruts where people were driving. Many cars were left covered in snow from the plows, not to move for about 5 weeks.

  • Kevin B


    Only 3 miles to school!!!

    When I were a lad we walked 20 miles to school and it were uphill both ways!!

    And lunch??? You had lunch!! We were lucky to get an old bone to gnaw on!!

    I bet you lived in a house as well!!! I remember when we moved into a shoebox we thought we were right proper toffs!!

    And Llamas, when I get smit, I clear my cache and it seems to do the trick. At least for a while.

  • RAB

    Right, where to start.
    I am fuckin fuming right now, but will get to the reason in a minute…

    Yes Mid, we had a lot more snow in the past than we have now, but we coped with it on a local basis. People cleared paths and sidewalks on a personal level, not left it to the Overlords to provide. (good to see you posting again by the way).
    What just happened to me was the Grid went down for an instant.Twice in 45 mins.
    No big deal for those watching telly, but for a computer user, well you have to re-boot your machine.Mine is a schlerotic piece of shit that I should replace, with only 40g memory. It takes ages to come back up.

    But the point is—-
    This snow is really pathetic to what I was used to as a child, but apparently my country cant cope with it anymore. So used to the supposed warming of the planet. Yet the Goranimal wants to freeze time in the mid fifties when this climate was the norm!
    Look, if the idiots running the National grid cant keep enough power going round to cope with the kettles and electric fires that suddenly get turned on when folk come home from work at half past six or so, When they could when Morcombe and Wise hit a commercial break in the 70s, what the fuck are they going to do when the EU forces us to de-commission our Coal gas and nuclear power stations in the name of Greenesse and “Saving the planet” and rely on fuckin windmills!
    If Christopher Booker of the Telegraph is correct, and I believe he is,
    We are fucked folks.
    Very fucked!

    Oh and LLamas, it’s probably the way you tell them.
    I have been smited more often than anyone here apart from perhaps Nick M.
    I’m just patient now. The comment will appear eventually. 😉

  • llamas

    Ah, there it is. Now what was so smite-worthy about that?

    RAB – what you need is a UPS.

    As to de-commissioning nukes, just tell the EU that you’ll de-commision yours when the French de-commission theirs.



  • nostalgic

    Kevin B:

    Yer well lunch only twice a week – gnawing on raw turnips the rest of the time=P

  • Kevin B

    Leg iron has a post up that starts with a mythical sea creature then gets on to the topic of England and snow, then develops into a fine old rant.

    IMHO well worth a look.

  • The only bright spot for this weather, is that is snowing on the metropolitan warmerista elite.
    The BBC weather people airily dismiss the Pennines with a, “Some snow on high ground” with the implication that nobody important lives there,if the do they deserves all they get.
    Without wishing to sound peevish,the odd iceberg up the Thames might concentrate minds wonderfully.

  • “gnawing on raw turnips the rest of the time=P”

    The ground thaws enough to dig turnips?

  • RAB

    Thanks Llamas,
    To be utterly serious for a millisecond here,
    I may already have a UPS (sounds like speed to me!) possibly two, but I am such a moron about this computer malkarky, that I dont know what UPS means.

    So like I said, when you get smited

    Be cool, calm and collected
    If you cant manage that, get a gun!

    But what works for me is hollering
    at the Management
    In the next post…

  • Pedant

    @Andrew Duffin:
    As you say:

    “Where is the Dunkirk spirit?”

    It seems ironic that the indomitable spirit of the British, which has helped them to pull themselves through two world wars (albeit with a little help from the allies) against external enemies, does not seem to have helped them to overcome that old internal foe – the severest of English winter weather. Yet foreign countries where large areas may become snowbound for months on end in the winter – such as Finland or Switzerland, for example – seem to take it all in their stride.

    Yes, snow in the UK – and in London in particular – seems to be one of the few things that can repeatedly defeat the British.

    @Johnathan Pearce:
    I hope that your father is recovering well from the major operation he underwent in hospital.
    In the end, were you able to go home, despite the weather?

  • A slight dusting last night, four inches the night before, six inches the night before that, a metre something one night back in January. -17C this morning, -9 yesterday during the day.

    What happens on the roads?

    Utter chaos. Cars skidding into each other, spinning out of control, sliding into crash barriers, getting stuck in ditches. Like they’d never seen snow before.

    Welcome to Russia.

    The trains work though.

  • nostalgic

    Ron Brick:

    I know the word ‘clamping’ has a different meaning today, but way back then root veg was stored in clamps – mounds of the veg covered by soil.

  • Nuke Gray!

    AHA! I’m onto you! Since real snow would contradict AGW, this talk of snow is code for something else!
    There’s a massive outbreak of Marijuana in Britain! Now that the Dutch are turning yellow over grass, they’re shipping the seeds to you, and you disguise it all with talk of the weather! Very cunning!
    After all, AGW CAN’T be wrong, can it?

  • Nostalgic,
    You could afford drawers ?

  • Andrew Duffin

    Jonathan, you are of course correct that it wouldn’t make sense for England to invest in the kind of kit that keeps Canada working, or the sort of thing that allows Minneapolis airport to stay open – iirc it’s a thing that looks like, and possibly actually is, a jet engine mounted on a truck.

    But that is not my point.

    We didn’t have all that gear in 62/3. I don’t remember seeing a snow-plough once, and at age eleven I think I would have noticed them. (I think they were used on the railways)

    We just got on with it. It’s the wimpish “oh, but we can’t, it’s far far too dangerous” that is so infuriating.

    Stop moaning, children, and go to school. It’s only snow.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Andrew, your point is justified only so far: it is true that buses, some trains etc can be modified to deal more effectively with crappy conditions and they should be. The people who run public transport in the UK panic at the sight of anything out of the ordinary. But for the sort of folk who have to commute long-distance to work, what are they supposed to do? Walk all day and waste their time? Drive in treacherous conditions? No, of course not. Thanks to the internet, however, working from home is now much more doable.

    Anyway, comparisons with the early 60s etc are suspect because long-distance commuting was far less frequent then, when, for example, factory workers typically walked to work. The alleged stoicism of our ancestors has nothing to do with it. Circumstances were different.

  • MarkS

    I would like to make it clear that this snowstorm did not originate in Britain but was caused by weather systems outside the government’s controls. Of course we are doing everything we can to help families and businesses weather the sever conditions and we will continue to take the right long-term decisions so that we can pull out of this snow event as soon as possible.

    Gordon Brown

  • MarkS

    I would like to make it clear that this snowstorm did not originate in Britain but was caused by weather systems outside the government’s control. Of course we are doing everything we can to help families and businesses weather the sever conditions and we will continue to take the right long-term decisions so that we can pull out of this snow event as soon as possible.

    Gordon Brown

  • MarkS

    I would like to make it clear that this snowstorm did not originate in Britain but was caused by weather systems outside the government’s control. Of course we are doing everything we can to help families and businesses weather the severe conditions and we will continue to take the right long-term decisions so that we can pull out of this snow event as soon as possible. But I should point out that the snow is not as bad here in Britain as in other countries and we are well placed for when the snow thaws.

    Gordon Brown

  • RAB

    Patience is a virtue MarkS 😉

    But you are right three times.

    Probing the innards of Perry’s Bot
    Even if a mathematician,
    who can work it out with a pencil,
    has left smarter men than me
    raving mad
    and barking at the moon!

  • Pa Annoyed

    The wimpishness (is that a word?) of the modern British does have an explanation. Driving on snow is a skill that takes experience and a little practice to get. I recall when I was young I lived in a city in the Pennines that got snow pretty much every year, and everybody knew how to drive on it. On hills, too. But newcomers to the city usually took a few weeks to get the idea.

    But having had about 15-20 years of warm winters, (thank you AMO!) about half the driving population is starting from scratch. If it continues, we’ll get used to it again. But in the meantime, it results in lots of bumps and crashes while people learn. If it’s not going to last, we’d might as well avoid the expense.

    The other reason of course is that the traffic density on the roads is a lot higher than it was 20 years ago. Something to do with government road-building policy…

    For those whose impression of England is Dickensian white Christmases, that was part of what we call “the Little Ice Age” – you may have heard of it in global warming discussions. The weather in the UK does have these long-term variations on timescales of fifty to a hundred years. One of the biggest was 1690-1733, twice as large as last century’s temperature rise, and peaking only a fraction of a degree lower. That marked the end of the Maunder minimum.

    If anyone here is into data analysis, downloading the HadCET dataset and playing with it can be enlightening.

  • llamas

    Pa Annoyed – don’t be so hard on them. You can’t blame people for not knowing something they’ve never really had to learn.

    Here in Michigan, it snows hard and handsome, every year, and we spend 4 months of the year having to deal with freezing weather and sometimes-very-heavy snow. Yet a large part of the populace forgets in just 8 short months how to drive on snow, and the first good snowfall each year produces a bumper crop of ditch drivers, and almost-always due to excessive speed and foolish driving. I just look at it as Darwinian processes in action.

    In many ways, driving in the UK winter can be harder because the temperature is often right around freezing and this creates some of the most-troublesome road conditions – black ice, freezing fog and so forth. At least over here, it gets to an honest 7°F, everything is frozen solid, and driving on new snow is like driving on dry sand.



  • MarkS

    Most people working in the private sector seemed to be able to get to work if it was humanly possible. However, schools and other parts of the public sector appear to have thrown the towel in before the first snowflake had even landed in any of the nation’s playgrounds.

    I’ve heard it said that risk aversion and fear of litigation is behind the decision for some headteachers to close their schools and then once one has decided, the sheep instinct of educationalists is to ‘fall into line’ and shut all the schools. It only takes one brave soul to padlock the school gates.

    This issue of the fear of litigation is an interesting point. Would it not be worth spending a bit of public money testing some of these cases and defending against vexatious litigants to establish some principles in common law that could return us to saner, less-risk-averse times?

  • Pa Annoyed


    I agree. I wasn’t blaming them. I was only trying to explain a bit more about our “Dunkirk spirit”. And for what it’s worth, I’ve also seen plenty of drivers who have carried on without any problem.
    I’ve certainly not taken any time off work.

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