London – Snow storms from Siberia blasted Britain and Ireland on Thursday with the worst weather since 1991, trapping several hundred motorists on roads in Scotland, closing thousands of schools, grounding planes and halting trains.
With up to 90 cm of snow and temperatures as low as minus 10.3 Celsius in Scotland, Britain and Ireland issued their most severe red warnings which advise people to stay at home as travel is too dangerous.
Dozens of people were trapped in their cars on the M80 motorway between Glasgow and Edinburgh, with several hundred having been standed on the road overnight. Flights and trains were canceled across both Britain and Ireland – with similar transport problems in continental Europe.
More freezing snowy weather was forecast as Storm Emma approaches from Portugal and France, with warnings of treacherous weather across southern England and Ireland.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said people should remain indoors from 1600 GMT on Thursday until the storm, with winds forecast to reach 100 kph (60 mph), has passed.
“The risk to life and limb presented by the severe weather conditions should not be underestimated by anyone,” he said following a meeting of the National Emergency Coordination Group. “It is not safe to be outside in such conditions.”
All flights will cease from Dublin airport by 1600 GMT and the two carriers that use the airport, Aer Lingus and Ryanair, said they do not plan to fly from the airport at all on Friday.
Trains and planes were canceled across Britain and Ireland. Emergency services also struggled on what many consider to be the first day of the Northern Hemisphere’s Spring.
One doctor told Reuters that staff were snowed in at a hospital near Glasgow, and another doctor told the BBC of a surgeon colleague who walked almost three hours in the snow to the town of Paisley to perform a cancer operation.
Wholesale gas prices soared to their highest in at least 10 years on Thursday and the British power network regular, the National Grid, warned of a deficit in the market and sought to buy gas from market players to unblock bottlenecks.
The cold spell, dubbed the “the Beast from the East”, has been caused by a jump in temperatures high over the Arctic which has weakened the jet stream that brings warm air in from the Atlantic to Ireland and Britain.
Britain’s two busiest airports, Heathrow and Gatwick, both said that flights would be canceled. Police in Lincolnshire, eastern England, said that all roads were impassable.
Britain’s Met Office warned that freezing rain was likely across southern England as Storm Emma pushes northwards from Portugal and France, adding that it looked set to be the coldest spell in Britain since 1991.