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The British military was called in overnight to help rescue motorists when up to 1,000 vehicles were caught in a massive snow-related traffic jam in Hampshire, in southern England. Many people were evacuated to nearby rescue centers but some people slept in their vehicles overnight.
Unusually heavy snowfall stranded hundreds of motorists, disrupted trains and shut down schools and airports across Britain on Wednesday as the country suffered through its longest cold snap in nearly 30 years.
A stubborn cold wave locked freezing temperatures in place across the central and eastern U.S. Wednesday as far south as Florida, where farmers worked to salvage millions of dollars’ worth of strawberries and other crops.
Arctic air was expected to hover through the weekend. In a rare turn for the Southern U.S., forecasters warned that snow and ice were possible Thursday from South Carolina to Louisiana and wind chills in the region could get down to near zero at night.
The runway at London’s Gatwick Airport, the second busiest in the country, was closed for snow clearance Wednesday morning while sections of the country’s most important highways?such as the M1, which links London and Leeds?were closed.
A dozen flights were canceled at London’s Heathrow airport, Europe’s busiest, with massive lines building at check-in desks. Similar delays and cancellations were reported at regional airports.
Train services were also affected, with lines in southern England reporting reduced services. However London’s transport system, which practically ground to a halt when snow hit the capital in February, only suffered minor disruptions.
Most of the capital’s bus and subway lines were running.Freezing temperatures along with heavy snow hit parts of New England and created treacherous roads. In western New York, a woman and her infant daughter were killed late Tuesday when their car slid and slammed into a sport utility vehicle towing a trailer with two snowmobiles along a snow-covered roadway.
In central and south Florida, farmers were trying to salvage citrus and vegetable crops by spraying them in protective layers of ice and covering them in plastic. Florida Gov. Charlie Crist signed an executive order Wednesday that gave the state’s Division of Emergency Management and other agencies the authority to provide farmers with assistance.
Weather in the southern U.S. this time of year is typically chilly for just a day or two before temperatures rebound into the 50s. Many homes weren’t built to handle such cold, with uninsulated pipes and heat pumps that must continuously run to keep things barely comfortable.
British winters are typically mild, and cities and towns are generally ill-equipped to deal with heavy snowfall. With the worst-hit areas seeing up to 16 inches (40 centimeters) of snow, officials and road crews were struggling to keep up.
Several local governments were running out of sand and salt?with some reportedly emptying department stores of supplies. The wintry weather has prompted some police forces to urge drivers to stay off the roads and some trash collectors to suspend their rounds.
The national weather office says Britain is experiencing its longest cold snap since 1981. The unusually cold weather is expected to continue for the next two weeks.
Charleston, S.C., was expecting subfreezing overnight lows all week. Parts of West Virginia could see 4 to 8 inches of snow by Wednesday morning. A dusting of snow fell in western and central Kentucky overnight, heralding 3 to 5 inches expected in those areas, with some locally heavier amounts.
The cold weather has left behind record snowfall in some areas. In northeast Ohio, another 5 to 6 inches of snow fell Tuesday in an area already covered by 2 feet of snow, according to the National Weather Service.
Police in Erie County, N.Y., said Stephanie Ali, 22, lost control of her car Tuesday evening and crossed over into oncoming traffic in Grand Island, northwest of Buffalo near Niagara Falls. Ali and her 5-month-old daughter were killed. Investigators said the SUV driver could not have avoided hitting her.
In Vermont, the bad weather was blamed for several car accidents on slushy, slick roadways. In Hinesburg, a police officer was investigating a single-vehicle crash on Tuesday night when his cruiser was struck from behind by a teenager driving on roads that were covered in ice because of freezing rain. Minor injuries and vehicle damage were reported.