‘Thundersnow’ storms bring travel chaos to parts of UK

WINTRY ... People try to make their way through a blizzard in Durham.

WINTRY ... People try to make their way through a blizzard in Durham.

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PARTS of the UK suffered major travel disruption today as they were hit by ‘thundersnow’ storms.

There was travel chaos in some areas, with more than 300 schools, roads and an airport closed - but the North East escaped the worst of it.

Passengers were stranded at Manchester Airport after snow forced it to close both its runways for several hours as bad weather struck the north of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The airport reopened shortly before 2pm, but passengers were told to expect further delays.

A Met Office amber “be prepared” snow warning for northern England was downgraded to yellow, but knock-on effects are expected to continue.

The disruption was caused in part by “thundersnow” storms north of Manchester - thunderstorms where the rain is replaced by snow.

In Scotland, heavy snow led to more than 130 school closures and “very challenging” driving conditions in parts of the country.

A similar number of schools were closed in Northern Ireland, while bus routes in Belfast were disrupted and the city’s zoo was also forced to close.

The Highways Agency warned of icy roads as temperatures plummet tonight, and said its gritters will be out in force.

At Manchester, the country’s third busiest airport, glum-looking travellers could be seen being taken back off aircraft carrying their hand luggage.

More frustrated passengers gathered in lounges around information screens while red “cancelled” signs flashed up alongside the flight numbers of scheduled take-offs.

Outside, staff struggled to clear walkways with snow shovels as the airport repeatedly postponed the time the runways would reopen and flights get back under way.

An airport spokesman said: “Following the poor weather experienced this morning, flights have now resumed, but are subject to delays.

“The safety and security of our passengers is paramount, and we continue to make significant efforts to clear snow from other parts of the airfield.

“Further periods of poor weather are forecast for the rest of the day, and we would ask all passengers to contact their airline before travelling to Manchester Airport.”

Met Office forecaster Laura Young said the deepest snow fell in Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland.

Tulloch Bridge in Inverness-shire had 23cm (9ins) of snow, while there was 21cm (8ins) at Glenanne in Armagh, and Spadeadam in Cumbria had 13cm (5ins).

In the North East, most routes were open, though some roads in Northumberland and County Durham were treacherous.

Showers and overnight frosts also brought the risk of icy stretches forming on untreated surfaces, while strong winds accentuated the bitter cold feel.

The weather is forecast to turn slightly milder tomorrow, reaching up to 7C in the South.

But an Arctic blast will send a fresh wave of snow and freezing temperatures over the weekend.