Snow hits roads, airports in Britain, woman dies in France
Parts of Britain were blanketed in up to 35 centimetres (13 inches) of snow Saturday, causing air and road disruption, in the earliest widespread snowfall for 17 years.
In France, a homeless woman died of exposure in the Mediterranean city of Marseille after temperatures dropped below zero and in Italy four hikers died and another was injured in two avalanches near the northern cities of Brescia and Reggio Emilia.
In Britain temperatures plunged as low as minus eight degrees Celsius (17 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Scottish Highlands and minus seven degrees Celsius (19 degrees Fahrenheit) in central England overnight Friday and forecasters on Saturday issued severe weather warnings for Scotland and northwest England.
Luton airport, which serves London, reported delays Saturday, as did the English airports of Norwich, Newcastle and Durham-Tees Valley and the airport at Inverness in Scotland.
The airport on Jersey, in the Channel Islands, was briefly closed after lightning damaged its radar system.
Police warned drivers that snow and ice had created treacherous conditions, and in some areas told them not to use their cars at all unless absolutely necessary.
The heaviest snowfall fell on coastal regions in the north, but snow was also recorded in Wales and in the southwest of England.
Meteorologist Charles Powell, from the national Met Office, said: "Northumberland (in northeast England) has been the worst hit. There has been up to 35 cm snowfall in some places. It has been coming down continuously."
Further heavy snow was due over the weekend in Scotland and northwest England, and forecasters said it could reach London next week.
In France, a homeless woman in her forties froze to death in Marseille where snow and icy roads caused dozens of traffic accidents and power cuts left thousands of homes without electricity.
The woman, the first to die from severe winter weather this season, was found by a resident in the entry to an apartment building, social services said.
Temperatures were again expected to plunge below zero (32 Fahrenheit) overnight Saturday.
Snow and related accidents were also reported from other French regions.
© 2010 AFP