It's too early to make comparisons with other winters yet because we've
got the rest of January and February to go but it's already the longest
cold spell for about 30 years.
Looking back, the three winters of the early war years (1939, 1940, 1942) were notable for their harsh conditions.
In the winters of 1939 and 1940, not only was snow a major problem, but
there was also a spell of freezing rain which caused severe disruption
to transport, and many injuries from people slipping on the ice.
On 19 January 1942, a great snowstorm affected much of Britain and February 1942 was exceptionally cold.
The really big snow of the 20th century came in the winter of 1947.
This really was an exceptional winter with some dramatic snowstorms.
The severe weather didn't start until 22 January and continued until about 15 March. Snow fell frequently and in large amounts.
In the Denbighshire hills, snow reached depths of 5 ft with 20 ft deep
drifts in places. It wasn't long after the World War II so there were
already food and fuel shortages and the severe weather made life even
Much of the country came to a complete standstill. Public transport
didn't run and in some places people just couldn't get to work.
To keep the ports open, the Government had to use ice breakers, more
used to working in the Arctic than in Britain. Large parts of the
country suffered daily power cuts.
Factories were forced to shut down and over 4 million men found
themselves on the dole. In Mid and West Wales villages were cut off for
days. The only way to get food and fuel through to some of them was by
air; dropped from RAF planes.
Farmers across Wales say the snow of 1947 was the worst in living
memory. They lost more animals that year than in any other. Almost a
quarter of the country's sheep perished.
The winter of 1947 was the snowiest since 1814. Just trying to keep
warm was an art in itself. There was no central heating back than so
people had to wear coats and scarves indoors.
Others burned their garden fences and packing crates, cut down trees
and hedges for fuel. And when the snow drifted it really did lie 'feet
deep' across the land.
It was also a very dull winter with a lack of sunshine, which made it
even more depressing, and to make matters worse, when the thaw finally
came in March the combination of melting snow and heavy rain led to
widespread severe flooding!
The winter of 1962 and 1963 was not as snowy as 1947 but it was colder and
went on for much longer. In fact it was the coldest winter in Wales
There were lots of sunny days but the snow lay on the ground for two or three months before it finally began to melt.
Football matches and race meetings were called off but one game that
did go ahead was the Wales versus England rugby match at the old
Cardiff Arms Park. This was because the ground staff had thought ahead
and covered the pitch with straw.
Lakes and rivers froze. Huge blocks of ice formed on beaches and some
people say the sea froze in Penarth!
You couldn't get fresh vegetables.
The schools were often closed, usually when pipes burst or when there
was a fresh fall of snow.
Buses and trains stopped running and all over Britain, schools and
factories were forced to close. The side roads and country lanes were
impassable for weeks and the diesel in buses and trains froze in their
One of the first snow storms I can remember as a boy growing up in
Barry came on 18 February 1978. The blizzard turned out to be one of
the biggest of the century and the worst for 15 years at the time.
In Cardiff there was 34 cm of level snow (13 inches) with drifts 8
metres high (26 feet). Wales had just beaten Scotland at rugby 22
points to 14 at the Arms Park and many people were out celebrating
including Radio Wales presenter, Roy Noble
"After the rugby we all dashed off to the nearest hostelry for a
beverage or two. It was when we emerged that the shock set in; it was
"So heavy, in fact, that many people didn't make it home at all. They
had to take refuge in hotels, leisure centres and several convivial
houses for days on end".
"Life-long friendships were made. Fortunately, I got home on the last
bus that made it to Aberdare. It was ' touch and go ' and such was the
camaraderie on the bus, that one fellow from Mountain Ash took his cap
off and had a whip-round for the driver."
Villages were cut off for days by huge snow drifts. RAF helicopters air
lifted 45 people in South Wales and took food supplies to the more
The Western Mail newspaper
even produced a 'Blizzard Special', selling at just 5p a copy, telling the story of the sudden snow and its effects on people.
According to the paper 300 refugees, many of them returning from the
Wales v Scotland rugby international, were forced to bed down in
Cowbridge Town Hall. While in Porthcawl the figure was over 600.
In Pembrokeshire, farmer Pat Russell found himself stuck in a snowdrift on the Castlemartin firing range
and had to be rescued by the army in a tank!
The soldiers towed him and his trailer, full of hay, to his isolated
herd of cattle and then took him home again - really good Samaritans.
The winter of 1978/9 was the coldest and snowiest since 1963. Hundreds
of birds died in the freezing conditions and one of my strongest
memories is of my mother coming in from pegging out clothes on the
washing line, crying with the cold.
Her hands were purple and frozen. The cold was so intense with a bitter
easterly wind direct from Siberia. Pipes froze and we couldn't empty
the bath for days.
The next big blizzard to hit Wales came in January 1982. It started to
snow on the evening of 7 January and didn't stop for 36 to 48 hours. Watch some footage from 1982
In Llandrindod drifts were several metres high but out in the country
it was much worse. The M4 motorway was brought to a standstill and the
roof of Sophia Gardens pavilion in Cardiff collapsed under the sheer
weight of snow.
A train on the Cambrian coast line got stuck in the snow and passengers
had to be airlifted to safety. Rescue helicopters from RAF Anglesey and
Brawdy in Pembrokeshire worked non-stop, taking people to hospital and
helping farmers, trying to stop their animals from freezing to death.
Glyn Foulkes, who responded to one of my recent blogs, remembers his
dad's greenhouse thermometer reading - 27°C (- 17°F) in Llantysilio
(Llanymynech) in Powys.
He says "On my way to work in Shrewsbury at the time I saw many truck
drivers stranded. They had fires underneath their engines trying to get
them to start!".
"And when I got to Shrewsbury the biggest shock of all, the River
Severn was nothing but a mass of huge icebergs grinding against each
So although we've some heavy snow and ice recently, I think its fair to
say we've had far worse to deal with in the past. Many winters in
recent times have been relatively mild so the wintry weather is a shock
to the system.Watch an archive clip showing snow footage
from previous winters on BBC News online.
Back to the present and the big freeze of 2010 has loosened its grip
slightly with a slow thaw of lying snow but we're not out of the woods
More snow is expected on Tuesday afternoon, overnight and into
Wednesday. Some heavy falls are likely too with drifting in strong
winds. So do keep an eye on the forecast.
If you have any old photos from winters past then I'd love to see them
or perhaps you'd like to share your memories by adding a comment.You
can e-mail old photos in to me here at email@example.com
If you don't have a scanner then simply take a digital photo of the old print.Derek