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Adi F

The Great Blizzard

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All this talk of winter and snow has been getting me thinking of my best snow memories. For me it has to be February 1978. I lived in a little village called Allerford, between Minehead and Porlock. On the evening of the 18th it started to snow, my mum said I should go out and build a snowman as it (meaning the snow) will be gone by the morning. Well by the morning the snowman had certainly gone, it had been covered by a 5 feet blanket of snow. I remember that when I opened the back door I was met by a wall of snow, well my dad a good country boy kept a spade in the down stairs toilet (in those days you were always prepared for snow) started to dig a path from our front door, other neighbours were doing the same it took most of the day just to get a path to everyone in our street. One house had a snow drift covering both the front and back doors and us kids laughed watching our dads try and get the old couple out of the bedroom window.

The folks must had been used to heavy snow in the past because I remember walking on top of the hedges and being told not to stray from the hedges as we would sink. My dad and I walked 3 miles on top of hedges to Porlock on one day so he could check his workshop out.

Dr Lister did his rounds on skis and the army delivered food by helicopters. I think it was at least a week until the A27 was cleared from Minehead to Porlock, We were with out electricity for nearly 3 weeks. Funny thing is I don’t remember life grinding to a halt; in fact it got really busy. If you live in a farming community you are used to digging sheep out of snow which we helped doing but we also had to dig cows and horses out so that was quite strange.

I have found a couple of photo my mum took at the time, including one of the infamous snowman. Unfortunately I can’t find the rest of the photos, the ones I have don’t give justice to the depth of snow.

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Here are a couple of articals I have found on the net

February. Generally quite a cold (CET 2.8C) and snowy month. The start of the month was mild and unsettled. It then became very cold for two weeks from the 7th as a large anticyclone over Scandinavia directed easterly winds our way: the classic great cold setup. Snow showers in the east: 15 cm in parts of Kent by the 9th, 30 cm at Newcastle by the 13th. There were some exceptional blizzards as depressions ran close to the south, particularly in the southwest on the 18th-20th, centering on the 19th. 34 cm of snow at Exeter and Cardiff, with 8m drifts. 1m fell on Dartmoor. Snow fell over much of the south and Midlands. The great southwest blizzard was one of the great blizzards of this century, with the loss of several lives. Devon was particularly badly hit, by disruption extended to Hampshire and Wiltshire. Many places were cut off; Lynmouth until the 24th, and Hawkrdige on Exmoor remained cutoff until the 27th. Some low temperatures too, with many places beneath freezing throughout this cold period. -2C1 at Braemar on the 15th; and -17C at Edinburgh on the 17th, its equal record low; and the lowest of all, -22 at Keith (Grampian) on the 20th. Heavy freezing rain fell in Surrey on the 20th. The thaw set in about the 23rd: up to 15C in London. The rapid thaw casued flooding

From here http://www.personal.dundee.ac.uk/~taharley/1978_weather.htm

And

1978 (18th/19th February): BLIZZARD/HEAVY SNOWFALL OVER SOUTHWESTERN BRITAIN. Ranking alongside the worst snowstorms of the century, particularly that of December 1927, this SEVERE BLIZZARD affected southwestern England, parts of the SW Midlands and much of south and mid-Wales (lighter snowfall, or none at all in immediately adjacent regions) and caused many people to be marooned on this Saturday night in places of entertainment. Snow drifted well above 10 feet, and 7 lives are reported to have been lost. Winds reached STORM-FORCE at times, and SNOWFALL was heavy and prolonged. On the 20th, as warm air encroached from the southwest, with further sleet, snow and FREEZING RAIN in places, a THAW of the lying snow led to local FLOODING.

From here http://homepage.ntlworld.com/booty.weather...e/1975_1999.htm

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Wow, I dont think I have ever seen snow like that in my life time!

Thanks for sharing the photos, I had forgotten what great fashion we had back in the 70's :)

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If the drifts were five foot, how much lying snow was there and also, how did the north east do from these depressions, did they even reach the north east???????

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That’s me in the parker, the girl with crutches is Lisa, my cousin who had MS, she went on to swim in the Para Olympics but sadly she dyed at when she was 17. The boy to my left is Paul Radford and the other girl is Samantha who had moved from Africa I forget which country and that was the first time she had seen snow.

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If the drifts were five foot, how much lying snow was there and also, how did the north east do from these depressions, did they even reach the north east???????

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

We had 5 foot of snow. some of the drifts were 20 feet high in some places.

I dont think the north east got it

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Wow.. amazing pics and a read. What an experience that must have been to watch happening

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Here's the article I wrote on it

The Great West Country Blizzard of February 1978 affected the SW of the UK and ranks as one of the worst snowstorms to hit the UK.

February 1978 was a cold month as high pressure was to the north and east blocked Atlantic systems from moving across the UK. On the 15th, the first occluded front approached the SW producing a SEly gale for the West Country and this produced heavy snowfalls. The front stalled as it could not overcome the very cold airmass over the UK. On the 18th, the next occlusion moved close to the SW and this tightened the SEly flow across the SW producing gales and blizzard conditions. By the 19th, a small low accompanied the occlusion drew in very mild air from Biscay and the huge temperature contrast between the very mild air and the very cold continental air produced copious amounts of snow. The front was expected to move right across the south but stalled over the SW. By late on the 19th, 34cm of level snow was reported at Cardiff and Exeter airports with drifts of over 8m, the greatest level snow depth was recorded at Nettlescomb, Somerset with 85cm. Enormous drifts over the moors blocked scores of roads paralysing the transport network in the SW. The worst affected areas were Somerset, Devon and Dorset, these areas had level snow depths >30cm. The counties of south Wales, Wiltshire, Avon and western Hampshire and the Isle of Wight recorded between 10-30cm of level snow. Most of the low ground of Cornwall had rain. On the 20th, the milder air finally arrived.

http://www.theweatheroutlook.com/datkbarch.asp?id=1119

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Thanks for sharing that with us Mr Data :p

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Wow, hope it happens again this year.

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i was 11 yrs old at the time and living in exeter.

what i remember of feb 1978 was that it was very cold in the first cpl weeks with snow showers, then on the 15th the weather changed and i went to school that mrning in heavy rain..it rained all day until about 4.30 when it slowly began to turn to sleet, by 6 it was snowing heavily. the next day the 16th was my brothers brithday and we woke to find a deep covering of snow and clear blue skies.

it snowed again that afternoon and again the next day. on the sat the weather forcasters were predicting severe weather and blizzards and sure enough by lunctime the snow had started the winds picked up ..id never seen horizontal snow before. needless to say by the next morning my dads car was completly buried in the driveway and our bird table in our backgarden which was at least 6ft tall was lost under a drift against next doors fence.

what i didnt realise at the time was that i was witnessing something special..a blizzard/snowfall that has never been matched since in my experience even though i have lived most of my life since 1982 in essex and seen the snows of the mid 80s, jan 87 and feb 91 but none of those have come close to that week in feb 1978.

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I am personally hoping for more snow events such as the end of Feburary.

The charts below are for the 18th and 19th of Feburary in 1978.

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Hope it happens this winter, i wonder how cold it was???????

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I can well recall the cold spell and the blizzards in the SW. As usual though, Milton Keynes had nothing but an odd flake-or-two in the wind. Typical! :p:D

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Although the northeast missed out on the frontal snow, there were certainly snow showers in the east. Trevor Harley's account says "30cm in Newcastle by the 13th" and my parents' memories back that up. Durham had (I think) 17 days of lying snow that month.

There were even a few flurries in Lancaster around that time, but accumulations did not exceed 1 cm.

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What kind of temperatures and how much snow does Inverness get from a standard easterly???????

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It depends on how cold the easterly is- many easterlies actually bring temperatures of 3-5C by day and night, and I suppose those are the 'standard' for today!

The snowy easterly setups, with high pressure centred somewhere between Greenland and Scandinavia and a long draw from northern Russia, may bring snowfalls to Inverness if the high pressure is situated quite a way north and the flow is unstable (this favours NE'ly rather than SE'ly regimes) bringing sunshine and snow showers. Usually, though, the high is too dominant, and the weather is cold and dry.

The only way Inverness gets significant falls from an easterly is if the easterly airflow is centred to the north of Britain, and Atlantic systems push up against it bringing mild air to England and Wales, and snow to northern Scotland as happened around 4-6 February 2001 for example.

If you live in Inverness, forget easterlies- the prime setup for snow there is a Greenland high, Scandinavian low and an airflow direct from the Arctic.

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As TWS says, we tend to get NOTHING on an easterly wind...Strangely enough though, some of our heaviest snowfalls come-in on RPM air from the W or NW. A straight northerly usually ends up dry and cold; whilst Caithness, Sutherland and Aberdeenshire get plastered!!! :):)

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What size snowfalls do you get from a north westerly??????????????????

I would imagine you did pretty well last winter, living in the center of the country, on high ground, i can get snow from just about any direction, although a easterly is my best setup, when we had the mass snow event at the end of Feburary i was in the firing line from 05:00 to 17:00, i got four inches however the snow was mostly light during the day and as a result the snow was falling at the same rate the sun was thawing. The north east also does particulaly well when a warm front moving from the west collides with cold air, this often creates blizzard conditions such as New Years Eve 2003, i got five inches in about six hours.

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Last winter was actually rubbish SB; for some reason, the snow went round us... :):(

But in January 1991 it was about 18" deep in places - on SWerlies; probably even deeper than that in 1993?, when the Braer went down - again on a SWerly...The best Nwerlies were in 1995 and 2003 - over a foot on both occasions! :):)

If we get cold winds (max of 2C or lower) around a LP in early winter, thundery showers can last quite a long time - and can come-along once every half-hour! :):)

PS: We're wandering off-topic! :)

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We are talking about snow events, so i do not feel that we are off topic.

How come you can get snow from a south westerly, is it because of your proximity to the centre of deppresions.

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If a deep depression moves east between Orkney and the mainland, and the air being dragged-in is cold enough, we will get very heavy (and sometimes thundery) snow and hail showers...It's usually best around the last in a series of depressions, as the air can originate from Iceland, Greenland or the Arctic...That said mate, most SWerlies are mild here also. :)

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Being young, the most snow i can remember was in 2001 when i had around eight inches, which pales in comparison to what you get however i was born in Peterhead and may decide to move back to Scotland.

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Strangely enough though, some of our heaviest snowfalls come-in on RPM air from the W or NW. A straight northerly usually ends up dry and cold; whilst Caithness, Sutherland and Aberdeenshire get plastered!!!  

It was a bit daft of me to forget that kind of RPM setup- the very setup I was watching out for throughout my time in Lancaster! Unfortunately, particularly in the 'modern winter', such bursts of polar air are often too transitionary to enable the coldest air to get south of Scotland. When it does, though, the setup has historically been a source of heavy snow showers and thunder for the North West.

I remember the incursion of 3 February 2003 very well- the only good example of one that occured while I was in Lancaster. The temperatures were too marginal for the snow to settle to any significant depth, but it was probably the most significant event of that winter for the North West. (I'm not counting the even better example that occurred on Christmas Day 2004, because I wasn't in Lancaster at the time so I didn't reap the benefits.)

I remember the snowfalls of early March 1995 too- the North East even had some, and it was the first time I was aware of experiencing 'proper' snow in a westerly regime.

The above setup didn't occur during February 1978, but there were plenty of such incursions in the preceding January which must have been particularly snowy in Inverness-shire.

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Last winter seemed to have a lot of those events which even gave me snow, i expect a lot of these events during the coming winter, however they will not be marginal and the cold air will penetrate south.

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If my area had a perfect set-up,it would have to be a ENE wind,which is cold,it travels across a mild Noth sea and causes large laspe rates which encourages snow showers to form.southern Essex does well when the showers form in the thames Estuary due to large laspe rates with the wind being a ENE.This occured twice last year and both times it gave 5cms,off course this is a tiny amount in comprasion to past events,however if the ground was colder and al lthe showers from the previous day had settled,the total amount may well have been upwards of 20cms.

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