Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Severe weather leads to diverted flights

HUNDREDS of passengers at Scotland's busiest airport were hit by delays and diversions yesterday after snow forced operators to close the main runway.

The disruption came as heavy snow and high winds swept across parts of Britain, with forecasters predicting more unsettled weather to come.

Three domestic flights due to land at Edinburgh Airport were rerouted to Glasgow when sudden snowfall in the capital turned to ice on the ground, prompting BAA to shut down the principal runway at about 11.30am.

Outbound flights from Edinburgh were also delayed as a result, until the runway reopened just after 1pm.

A spokesman for BAA said that problems could continue until the end of the day as staff worked to clear a backlog of flights.

Earlier in the day up to six inches of snow backed by strong winds closed the main Scotland-England artery, the M74 motorway, between Glasgow and Carlisle.

Snowploughs fought for more than four hours to keep the road open but it was eventually closed.

Ploughs managed to re-open the road although traffic delays went on for much of the day, with only one lane open north and south for a time.

Dumfries and Galloway Police said the worst-affected areas were around Moffat and Beattock, where queues built up and stretched for several miles in the early morning.

They urged drivers to go out only if it was absolutely necessary because of the treacherous conditions.

A police spokesman said: "The motorway was closed for some time and snowploughs managed to open one lane at first to release vehicles. It was very difficult driving conditions and we were urging drivers not to venture out unless it was vital."

Forecasters are predicting that more snow and icy conditions could hit Scotland throughout the week.

The Met Office predicted that Glasgow might well see snow showers tonight and freezing temperatures across the country could make driving on the roads hazardous.

Heavy rain is expected today and overnight then into Thursday but snow could return at the weekend, with the chance of significant falls across the southern half of Scotland from the Borders up to Perth and Kinross.

The latest storms come after the nation was gripped by conditions chillier than parts of Iceland and Greenland in the first two weeks of the year as temperatures fell close to -12C (10.4F).

At one point it was so cold in central London that the fountains in Trafalgar Square froze.

Victoria Kettley, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, said: "There will be ice on the roads and some frost. It will still be fairly breezy but not as bad as it has been over the weekend.

"Tuesday is going to be a fairly fine day, with much of the UK dry and fine, although it will feel chilly in the wind."

The temperature will be 3C (37.4F) to 6C (42.8F), but tonight will be cold, with the mercury only reaching -3C (26.6F) or -2C (28.4F).

Over the weekend, downpours and severe gusts reaching more than 100mph in parts of the UK toppled trees and also blew down power lines.

The Western Isles were hit by 100mph winds.

In Co Down, Northern Ireland, a woman in her 30s was killed when a falling tree struck her car on Saturday.

The wild weather was due to a powerful jetstream coming in from the Atlantic that caused low pressure to develop, forecasters said.