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Snow and the Weather Centre

Richard Chapman Richard Chapman | 15:17 UK time, Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Snow outside London Bridge train stationLike many commuters I spent the first part of Monday morning standing at the station despite the warnings, believing that a miracle might happen and my train might still arrive to take me on the daily trip to London.

Watching the weather output and talking to colleagues who made it into the office, it was clear that we were experiencing an unusual event. Despite the statements that it was the worst snowfall in south-east England for 18 years, it was not until this morning that I realised the magnitude of snow that had fallen.

On my journey from the Kent coast the amount of snow lying just increased and got deeper up until the point where the tracks were not visible on the lines that had not been cleared.

Yesterday many comparisons were made with other European countries, who despite their prolonged winters and heavy snowfall continue to run their public transport and go to work. I assume that if we too experienced these extreme conditions regularly they would become the "norm" and we would cope far better.

The forecasts from the BBC Weather Centre at the end of last week contained early mentions of the potential for snowfall this week. Special graphics were commissioned as "attention getters" to make sure that the potential for snow was presented clearly. As the forecast became more certain across the weekend, the graphics were used extensively as the extent of the snowfall became evident.

The Weather Centre today is a hive of activity, with everyone feeling the effects of the busy day yesterday. Ice is still a potential problem in many areas as snow melts during the day and freezes overnight (temperatures in some rural areas fell to -8C last night).

On top of this we are watching the forecast closely. I spoke to Matt Taylor, BBC broadcast meteorologist, earlier about the outlook. He said that the wintry weather would last until the weekend and some parts of the country would see further snowfall leading to disruption.

It is definitely worth keeping in touch with the forecast on television, radio and online, as we have clearly not seen the end to this particular spell of cold weather yet.

Richard Chapman is editorial manager of BBC Weather.


  • Comment number 1.

    I would like to know why so much news covers other countries when our own country is in such a mess. I'm sure that we have enough news items here without having to worry about other countries, for instance... why dont most of the streets in Manchester warrent gritters. Most of Britain has been hit with severe snow, including north west, but hardly anywhere has been gritted

  • Comment number 2.

    The BBC has become the 'Bad-news' broadcasting corporation! All bad news is now emphasised, and good news considered worthy of little comment. The weather problems are a case in point: the forecast of some 'bad', but not extraordinary weather, was overdone with words such as 'extreme', 'blizzards', 'worst for decades' etc etc, and the anticipation was inevitably far worse than the actuality. Hence schools are closed, buses are left in the garage (even referred to as 'lethal weapons' - I ask you!) and a siege mentality is created. London has become a laughing stock in cities on the Continent where this type of weather is the norm rather than the exception.

  • Comment number 3.

    Re BBC1 TV weather forecasts yesterday and subsequent school closures, there was an inconsistency between the forecast at about 1828 which indicated snow becoming less significant as it spread NW from London, to be followed by frost ie clear sky and the forecast given by Riaz Latef 20-30 minutes later on BBC London News. She said 'significant'snowfall could be expected during the night. There are often inconsistencies between weather forecasts issued by these two programmes. No wonder school heads and many others are confused. The BBC needs to address this issue. Thanks

  • Comment number 4.

    For 2 days now whenever I have put the news on to surprisingly hear about what is happening in the world, I find that all I get is a very, very long weather report. We all know it has snowed and as usual the bbc and the news networks have inundated us with just one story. I put the 6pm news on and for the first 15 minutes all I got was it has snowed, how snow is formed and pictures of snow scenes. Where is the news! No doubt news has happened around the world, there are conflicts going on around the world which some of us would like to be informed about, what happened to the recession (although usually that's all you hear about) for goodness sake please just give me the news from around the world, it is a news report. By the way DID YOU KNOW IT HAS SNOWED!

  • Comment number 5.

    The best video I have seen of the snowy weather was from the BBC camera stationed outside Waterloo Station. When I first saw this clip I laughed and then thought, ouch and finally thought why didn't the camera crew warn people about how slippery it was!

    When I looked at the video later this evening, it seemed to have been edited a little. Fewer people slipping and more interviews.

    Did my eyes deceive me, or had the video been changed. Did the camera crew have a pang of conscious, about standing around whilst people were hurting themselves. Will the BBC feel obliged to publicly apologise again?

  • Comment number 6.

    i lived in berlin for years and the weather was a lot worse than here ,buses ran people went to work etc i live in scotland where we get snow, tempratures below zero etc but the councils up here still cant cope! the reason? they wont spend the money .one thing that has annoyed me is the fact that the bbc has only reported on the weather in england, we may be more used to the snow but it would be nice to report on the conditions in scotland also!!!

  • Comment number 7.

    I am very upset with all this complaining about the schools closing and how the parents could not go to work. Are you all mad; is the life of a child or teacher worth your day at work? Having lived in Canada for many years I know the risks of snow and ice. Stop your complaining kiss your kids and thank your head teachers for not putting your loved ones at risk. For those that don’t see the danger, look at the number of accidents that occurred over the last two days and imagine how bad it would have been with thousands of students and teachers on the roads.

  • Comment number 8.

    RE: #2

    Whilst I agree the coverage of the fact it has snowed has been rather over the top, the use of the phrase 'worst in decades' cannot be complained about, it is (pretty much) true! Of all the things BBC News has reported about the weather, this is probably the most interesting, I didn't know how long it had been since this last happened.

    By the way, the snow has not been all bad, my Scout Troop this evening spent two hours using a bungee cord to pull Scouts/Scout Leaders over a (small) jump, (onto a crash mat) lying on a surf board!!

    I wish it snowed every week (as long as the buses will get em to work).

  • Comment number 9.

    Maybe London can't handle snow, but down here in Florida we can't handle it either, so don't feel so bad. Maybe once every 25 years you'll hear of some city in northern Florida getting snow flurries. We actually have events here where we make snow for the kids by having snow machines blow snow off of the tops of buildings at shopping centers, or we bring in truck loads of snow for the kids to play in.

    The snow storm you just had is nothing compared to the hurricanes that hit us all of the time in the summer. You should try one sometime.

  • Comment number 10.

  • Comment number 11.


    Thanks for the informative and accurate situation with the snow and the BBC Weather Centre and how they prepared the People of the United Kingdom; at the time for a very hard snow storm.....

    ~Dennis Junior~

  • Comment number 12.

    The "whether the weather" topic that opens so many conversations in the good old UK as a blog? Well we had some snow, quite a bit actually, and everything ground to a halt. The country couldn't move because no one had thought to coordinate actions to prevent it.

    So what went wrong with the alert issued some several days earlier? Surely weather forecasting is important BEFORE the event not after it? So what went wrong with all the communication with our bad weather co-ordinating services? And why did so many of them give out incorrect or inaccurate information? It is one thing for our National broadcaster to give out information but it is quite another to be sure that what is being said is true.

  • Comment number 13.

    Yesterday I heard a very disturbing and unbelievable story regarding the Health and Safety regulations and the Met Police. During the recent snow falls and freezing conditions policemen who were actively deployed on the streets were ordered to return to their station as the conditions were not safe for them to be on the streets. I am sure you will find this unbelievable. What next? Maybe the Health and Safety departments who stopped the busses will now advise the Fireman not to go near fires as they are too dangerous.

    I wonder if the BBC is able to uncover and expand on this story.

    Good luck.

  • Comment number 14.

    The roads and pavements were covered in black ice this morning when I walked my children to school (very slowly). They enjoyed themselves. I couldn't help thinking how much more I would enjoy dancing on black ice if I had John Barrowman to grab hold of. ;)

  • Comment number 15.

    This countries reaction to a little bit of snow is quite frankly pathetic.

    How about all these schools open back up (the mums with 4 wheel drive cars should be able to deliver their little darlings safely, and I am sure they can pop round to the ones without 4 wheel drives who are unable to walk and look smug at the fact they have a 4 wheel drive) and have a lesson in how to clear snow?

    I appear to be the only person in my street to have bothered to clear the public path outside my house. Presumably everyone else is just watching out of the window incase somone falls over so they can get it on TV to prove how bad it is.

  • Comment number 16.

    But you did get it wrong didn't you?

    My part of the East coast got rain and lots of it.

    I now have a mountain of bread to eat and a lake of milk to drink before their sell-by dates.

    In my childhood we had snow and ice for weeks, no heating in the school whilst we learned our tables oh, and the occasional air-raid, bomb and air-craft gun to contend with.

    Spring always came if, sometimes, a little late.

  • Comment number 17.

    Yesterday morning at the news our school and pre-school were shut again I too shared the frustration expressed here and now have 2 days worth of work to catch up on.
    However this morning walking to school (we dont have a 4 x 4 and chose a school we could walk to so that our children dont get ferried about everywhere) it was treacherous. The roads were too busy to walk in and the paths were like an ice rink. Both children feel over a couple of times and I would have fallen too if it wasnt for a tree I bumped into!
    The headteacher herself has had to grit the school paths and clear a route into school as we have had no interest in the caretaker vacancy and I can clearly see now why the decision was taken not to risk broken bones going in yesterday.
    We need the yellow bins back with grit in so we can sort the paths out ourselves !!

  • Comment number 18.

    @ Walrus #16

    What a crock...

    You would have had the mountain of bread and lake of milk to consume whatever the weather.

  • Comment number 19.

    There is a lot of misinformation talked about how well other countries cope with snow. Having talked to colleagues in Finland and Sweden they say that the first snow of winter always leads to a few days of chaos as people switch to winter tires and the snow accumulates. Once the snow has stopped falling and the storm moves on it is relatively easy to deal with things because the snow is no longer accumulating and it is not drifting.

    In addition the snow this week was extremely well forecast and yet many people seemed to ignore the difficulties it would bring to transport and tried to carry on with their normal journeys. The truth is that we as a society simply cannot deal with any interuption to our routine and we get upset if we cannot do what we want to do when we want to do it. It is good to know that we are not completely in control of our environment and sometimes we need to acknowledge that we have to live with and adapt to it.

  • Comment number 20.

    Incredibly, the schools in West Oxfordshire closed on Monday and Tuesday when the roads were clear and mainly dry.

    Then the media focussed attention on the outcry against the school closures. Today sees by far the worst of the weather over the three days. The roads were truly treacherous-but the schools are open!

    I can't help thinking that authorities have shown poor judgement here both in being too quick to close and then refusing to do so for political reasons, ignoring the dangerous conditions.

    The worst is yet to come acording to forecast. Goodness knows they'll be hesitant to close again although conditions are expected to be worse still.

  • Comment number 21.

    Aside from any inaccuracies, the BBC is doing a wonderful job of reporting how the British people are reacting to this snowfall.

    The whole world is laughing at you.

  • Comment number 22.

    the BBC news started today with the words the cold weather and how long is it going to last.

    At no time was the issue of how long the cold weather is expected to last addressed in the news feature.

  • Comment number 23.

    1963 - the last really bad winter as far I am concerned - the village school was closed for an extra 5 weeks after the 2 week Christmas holiday. I only lived about 50 yards from the school and the headmistress actually lived in the school house. She taught the 11 plus children in her house and the rest of us had the most wonderful 5 weeks. The snow was more than plentiful, the village was often cut off and it did not do us any harm.
    It would be quite stupid for this country to invest in vast numbers of snow ploughs, winter tyres etc - they would just be mothballed for years - now that would be a serious waste of money. By next week there will be another news story.
    Schools were closed for safety reasons - do you really want your children travelling in such conditions. I am married to a teacher - there was very little snow - the school stayed open and he did get there. But the snow in our village was far heavier and the village roads remained ungitted- he therefore put his life at risk to get to school - how ridiculous. Why put lives at risk so that children dont miss a few hours school. What we need is a more understanding attitude by employers that for a very short space of time - employees might not get in not because of weather but because of emergency child care.
    Furthermore stop comparing us to countries that have months of snow every year - of course they can prepare for it- we will never be able to match them.

  • Comment number 24.

    Not worth checking online to see what is happening if you live in Wiltshire. In Swindon we woke to around 6 inches this morning but it didn't even warrant a mention.

    Scotland, Northern England, East Angliia, Northern Ireland, Wales,
    Bristol, Bath, Oxford, Bicester, Devon schools and hospitals closed, but Wiltshire doesn't seem to exist in BBC land.

  • Comment number 25.

    Just wanted to say that whilst the coverage of the bad weather has been very good, telling us about road problems, school closures etc. Still haven't heard any appeals for people to check on elderly neighbours! There are lots of people that can't get to the shops to get supplies. Come on everyone, help your neighbours!

  • Comment number 26.

    An inch or two of snow and the country slithers to a halt; how did we manage before global warming. Any one with a car and an urgent need to use it would have opened the boot and put in a shovel, a box or a bag of ashes, some old carpet or sacking and, in case all else failed, a set of chains. Perhaps snow has changed in the past 60 years, its description certainly has. Today's thicknesses of 10cms and more can be seen to be at least an inch thick on the car roofs and other exposed horizontal surfaces where the reporter stood. My personal transport in those far off days consisted of feet and a bicycle; then with affluence came the trials motorbike. Later, the sidecar was added to serve wife and children. Then came protection against the elements in the form of the Heinkel, a 3 wheeled "bubble car", a most useful, adaptable and economical vehicle that even its three wheels in two ruts in the snow could not halt; with its rear wheel in either it was merely a matter of choosing which of the front wheels should accompany it; passage thus was slightly skewed, but rarely halted, and then only long enough to get the shovel.
    Came the family, came the car and the discovery that spinning the wheels was counterproductive. Gritting was not thought to essential; drop back well clear behind or suffer frontal paint and windscreen damage, or park to let the gritter pass and get the side of the car grit-blasted.
    I can recall villages being cut off from, water mains being frozen 2 feet below ground and shaving with the second cup of tea, yet I cannot recall failing to get to work because of snow, and I know there were many more like me. We did not consider ourselves exceptional.

  • Comment number 27.

    It was very interesting to see the coverage from the salt mine in Winsford and some of the comments made on tonight's news.

    Irrespective of the 'cold snap' in December, Local Authorities and the Highways Agency Managing Agents should take an inward look and ask themselves if they could have done more to avoid being in this predicament i.e. running out of salt.

    In hindsight they will probably concede they didn't stock up with salt when they should have done - over the summer (as was customary when we had proper winters).

    Lulled into a false sense of security by the past three 'mild' winters and pressurised by cabinet members to cut budgets, it's easy to see how they can be in a situation where they are in danger of failing to meet their obligations as set out in the Highways Act.

    Should they run out of salt and be unable to treat roads and a fatal collision happens as a result - where will the Highway Authorities stand legally?

    The defence in such cases is that the Highway Authority demonstrates they did everything 'reasonably practicable' to ensure public highways remained free from snow or ice.

    It only takes one Highway Authority in the UK to have stocked to the brim with salt before the start of winter for the others (who didn't) to have not taken reasonably practicable measures by comparison.

    I also pity the Local Authorities in all this as it appears the HA is comandeering salt supplies originally earmarked for them.

    What is the point of a free flowing motorway if you can't get to it? I suspect the need to avoid another 'white Friday' at all costs sees reason go out of the window.

    End of rant.

  • Comment number 28.

    I live in Devon and up to now have escaped the worse of the weather ... I hear the news say so many problems in the county ... and I am sure there is although I suspect mainly on high ground, Holden Hill, Dartmoor and Exmoor and surrounding villages are often snow bound at times like this ... However there is no snow on our roads in Ottery not 12 miles as the crow flys and the ground is covered in slush.

    My town suffered much flooding in October and people are still recovering from that ... all i say is please put things into perspective ... no one (hopefully) has been hurt or injured so this is mearly an inconvenience

  • Comment number 29.

    All those reporters and wether preseners standing outside with no warm headgear on -what madness! Nivver listened to On Ikla Moor Baht'At, hast tha, BBC?

  • Comment number 30.

    I am fed up with newscasters stating that roads are 'gritted or not gritted'. Lets have the facts correctly given: roads are, by and large, not gritted but just 'salted’ All the efficient authorities only use salt these days as any grit content is not only much less efficient than the salt, but after the snowy weather finishes the build up of grit over time is inclined to block gullies (drains). Geoff Hoon on Question Time stated how costly bulldozers are for snow clearing at £100,000 each for infrequent use in our winters. Unfortunately, he was misleading in this respect. As will be noticed on close observation a blade can be fixed to the front of the salting lorry, thereby clearing the deep snow and salting at the same time . The £100,000 that Geoff Hoon talked of will buy very many of these blades and adapting the lorries...Magic!!! Why do these politicians use this sort of incorrect information to misinform the public by suggesting that they are doing all that’s possible without wasting our money? They never cease to mislead in their own interests. I Martin

  • Comment number 31.

    Hi , having watched the weather reports and linked news with regards ..elderly stuck indoors , traffic stuck on roads and salt running dry ... can SOMEONE please ask the question , WHERE/WHAT has our UK based Armed Services been during this climatic crisis ... no ... I dont mean the ones serving abroad .. I mean the ones stuck inside some army barrucks twindling their thumbs [at tax payers expense] when they could be drafted in to flipping well help ... they [especially the REME] have at their disposal some of the most suffisticated recovery equipment ever produced and whats it been doing over the last week .. collecting dust !!
    I odviously have singled out the Army but theres plenty the Navy & Airforce can do as well ... why is it the States have the National Guard to call upon in times of a climatic crisis where'as we dont even call upon the Territiorial Army to help ? please investigate and shame the Armed Forces into getting their boots wet !!
    Greg R
    Not too far from Tidworth Barrucks but yet the A303 is still impassable !

  • Comment number 32.

    There are some really important issues of apparent censorship of news unfavourable to the governemnt on the BBC. So what do you concentrate on? SNOW.

    Quite an admirable ironic metaphor, I grant you, but if I want those I'll not go to a news organisation.

    The biggest story of the day is the allegation by the Mail on Sunday that the Home Secretary (yes, the woman in charge of the police and prisons!) has fiddled expenses of over £100,000. On the Marr show this morning all the papers' front pages were shown - except for MoS.

    Likewise, you ignored this story on your website until she had issued her denial. Her denial is emphatically not news - it is what all politicos of any party routinely do when the till traps their hands.

    So why did the BBC seek to suppress the REAL news story?

    It worries me that a pattern may be emerging here. You are paid by us to be impartial. Think about it.

  • Comment number 33.

    Last week the rest of the UK had to put up with back to back reporting on a snow shower in London. The reporting was non-stop, in depth and at times bordering on the hysterical.

    And yet we in Scotland have woken up this morning to a heavy covering of snow, and what has the BBC to say about it? Nothing.

    In my mind this just goes to prove there is a heavy bias towards events in the south of England, and the BBC's complete disregard towards Scotland.

    Indeed when weather forecasts are aired by the BBC, England is neatly divided into regions, and yet Scotland is referred to as 'weather in Scotland', as if I, in East Lothian, will have anything like the same weather as in Durness.
    I've also noticed that when a forecast is being delivered, the weather map zooms in to areas in the south of England, and yet the camera only travels as far north as Newcastle, so we see, vaguely in the distance, Lerwick.

    Which really makes me beg the question; why should I continue to pay a licence fee to a corporation that holds a blatant disregard for Scotland?

  • Comment number 34.

    Worst in 18 years? Maybe in three. We easily had this much snow in 2006.

    Oh you mean london? How stupid of me to assume you were talking about anything else.

    MOST people do not live in london and don't really care if it snows there.

  • Comment number 35.

    This is a rather late entry for the new BBC weather site. I'm afraid that despite probably doing a very good job of trying to cover many bases, it does in fact fail to deliver what the majority of folk need (based on a sample of 'n' middle class friends sitting around at dinner!). This is a fast loading quick day by day weather report for today and the week ahead that works on PC/Mac and iphone etc.

    Whizzy tech is great, but not when you have to wait for the swirling circle just to load the weather as it is now (which you're probably not interested in anyway). By the time it's done it's thing, I've given up and clicked onto Metcheck! Guys, please please please take note of the competition. All most people want is exactly what Metcheck provide. The symbols are simple, the breakdown is clear, and you don't have to wait.

    I have loads of respect for the Beeb, but just because the flashy weather format on TV works a treat, it doesn't mean the same format should be used online (and not of the iphone etc!). You can design a similar look without driving folk nuts! If it doesn't load in 2-3 seconds, then it may aswell not be there at all. Given the recent broadband speed media reports, I doubt I'm the only one who gives up!


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