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Learning English - Words in the News
02 February, 2009 - Published 14:10 GMT
UK hit by heavy snow
Snow in London

Heavy overnight snow has caused widespread disruption across much of eastern England and the Midlands. Road and rail services have been badly affected, there has been disruption to flights and many schools have closed. Rob Broomby reports:

Listen to the story

It was the heaviest snowfall in 18 years. Bus services in London carrying 6 million people have been cancelled. 10 of 11 underground lines are completely or partly suspended. The capital's main airport Heathrow has closed both runways for a while and there are still significant delays and cancellations, and there are no flights at all from City airport. Others are suffering long delays and cancellations too.

Several docks to the west have become iced up. And thousands are without piped water in Wales due to the frozen pipes. Hundreds of schools have been closed across the country and children at least are enjoying conditions.

The British like to complain that other countries handle the snow better than they do, that the merest sugaring of snowflakes brings normal life to a standstill amidst transport chaos. So why does it happen? Well truly icy conditions here are rare indeed. So why make a massive investment to combat extreme weather conditions that may not be replayed for another 18 years?

At an individual level the costs of being prepared like some Alpine countries would be high too. The British, for instance, are not required to have winter tyres fitted to cars at the start of the season, nor do they routinely carry snow chains. On the other hand the Brits do like to complain, and secretly they also like being told... sorry you can't get to work.

Rob Broomby, BBC

Listen to the words

if a transport service is suspended, it temporarily stops operating

places where ships can moor; wharfs, piers

iced up
frozen, with a coating of ice on the surface

here, the weather

tackle, deal with

the merest sugaring of snowflakes
even the thinnest covering/layer of snow

a standstill
when everything stops (here, all means of transportation)

winter tyres
tyres with a thick pattern that stops a vehicle from sliding on ice or snow (winter tyres are specially designed to be able to bend easily at sub-zero temperatures, without breaking or cracking)

usually, repeatedly

snow chains
special chains that are fitted to a vehicle's tyres to stop it from sliding on ice or snow

To take away:
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