Scottish airports hit in British cold snap

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Britain shivered Monday as an unseasonal cold snap gripped the kingdom, with temperatures below freezing and snow flurries grounding flights and trapping hundreds of motorists.

Scotland was among the hardest hit regions, with snow playing havoc at its airports with disruption at the main three, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, while the runways were cleared.

Scotland's busiest, Edinburgh, partially reopened to flight arrivals after spending much of Monday closed.

"The weather forecast is for more snow but our teams are working 24 hours to try to keep the airport open," a spokesman for the airport said.

Amid the earliest widespread snowfall of a British winter since 1993, the chilliest spot was in Scotland, with an overnight low of minus 16.1 degrees Celsius (three Fahrenheit) in Altnaharra in the northern Highlands.

The BBC reported that hundreds of motorists had been trapped in their cars in Scotland, with a rest centre set up in Perth to assist more than 650 people who had been stranded overnight.

A Central Scotland Police spokesman said: "Conditions are horrendous".

Scottish and Southern Energy said around 3,000 homes in the Perth and Tayside areas were without power.

The unusual weather has been caused by high pressure over Greenland and low pressure in the Baltic, forcing cold winds from the north-east across Europe.

Britain's Met Office issued severe weather warnings for the country's eastern flank. The national weather service said snow showers would gradually spread westwards overnight, with up to 25 centimetres falling on upland parts of northern England.

It said Tuesday would be "bitterly cold with snow showers for many, occasionally heavy".

Northeast England was among the regions blanketed in snow, with the landmark "Angel of the North" sculpture outside Newcastle spreading its wings over picture postcard wintry scenes.

The weather has disrupted sporting events, with four midweek Scottish Football League matches now been postponed.

Hundreds of schools were closed nationwide, while the Automobile Association breakdown service said they were dealing with twice the normal number of callouts.

The bitterly cold weather caught out two suspected thieves in Leigh, northwest England, after police followed a trail of frozen water which dripped from a stolen boiler.

A number of roads in Northern Ireland's second city Londonderry went untreated after thugs smashed the windows of salt gritting trucks.

In the crown dependencies, all schools in the Isle of Man were shut though the airport reopened in the afternoon, the BBC reported.

All Guernsey schools were closed and the airport reopened after snow clearance.

© 2010 AFP

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