UK weather: Major airport forced to close as heavy snow blankets much of England

A runner braves the snow on Bidston Hill, near Birkenhead, in north west England on March 9 (AFP via Getty Images)
A runner braves the snow on Bidston Hill, near Birkenhead, in north west England on March 9 (AFP via Getty Images)

A major UK airport was forced to temporarily close on Thursday as snow storms swept parts of the UK.

East Midlands Airport said it had to take the precaution because of a “period of heavy snow fall”, with runways re-opening shortly before 1pm.

Fresh travel disruption is expected overnight because of blizzards in some parts of the country, which are expected to bring 50mph winds and up to 40cm of snow in some places.

The Met Office has issued three amber warnings for northern England, the Midlands, North Wales and Northern Ireland, where “significant disruption" to transport and power supplies is expected.

Three more mild yellow warnings for snow also cover much of the rest of the nation, with the exception of southern England and western Scotland.

Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said the worst of the weather is expected in north-west Wales and northern England.

Mr Burkill said: “The combination of heavy snow and gales is why we’re likely to see blizzards and drifting snow which causes extra hazards on the roads.

“In places covered by amber warnings, there will be very difficult, treacherous conditions.

“Ideally avoid travelling in those periods - but if you have to head out then be aware that journeys could take significantly longer."

However, Londoners are more likely to see sleet or rain, with the Met Office advising that “isolated snow showers” are possible on Friday.

Thursday night temperatures will be similar to Wednesday, which was the coldest night of the year, before even colder conditions move in on Friday night.

Mr Burkill said that areas of the Highlands could see -17C, after this year’s record low of -16C was recorded at Altnaharra in the region.

Met Office forecasters said this was also the lowest March temperature seen in the UK since 2010.

Meanwhile, National Highways issued a “severe weather alert” for snow covering the North East, North West and Midlands regions until 8am on Friday, where motorists have been warned not to drive unless their journey is essential.

The RAC said that on Thursday morning there were 50% more breakdowns than usual in areas affected by snow, with some drivers stuck in the snow in parts of South Yorkshire and Wales.

Spokesman Rod Dennis said: "Rural routes through central and northern England covered by the Met Office’s amber weather warning are starting to get difficult to negotiate, and these are areas drivers should avoid if they can.

"Given the weather, we recommend thinking carefully before setting out today as, with more snow forecast, things are likely to get worse on the roads before they get better."