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Travellers battle with snow and ice

Snow and icy conditions continued to cause travel chaos, with 175 flights cancelled at the UK's busiest airport by midday and many train services struggling to cope.

At Heathrow, some 10% of flights were expected to be cancelled, and the situation was expected to get worse after 4pm when visibility is due to be low.

Passengers were advised to check the status of their flights before travelling to Heathrow.

Yesterday, people were left fuming after 260 flights were cancelled - 20% of the airport's usual business.

A Heathrow spokesman said yesterday: "Many airports have plenty of spare runway capacity so aircraft can be spaced out more during low visibility without causing delays and cancellations.

"Because Heathrow operates at almost full capacity, there is simply no room to reschedule the delayed flights."

Other airports including Gatwick and Birmingham also experienced disruption to flights because of the wintry conditions, while Robin Hood Airport near Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was closed, along with the runway at East Midlands Airport.

Thousands of children had an extra day off as hundreds of schools remained closed. In some cases, parents were asked to bring shovels to help clear paths to enable them to open.

A layer of snow and icy conditions also proved hazardous for motorists in the Monday morning rush hour.

Heavy snowfall closed two major roads across the Pennines, the A628 Woodhead Pass and the A66 between Brough and Bowes.

The Highways Agency said both routes would be closed for some hours and advised drivers to find alternative routes across the Pennines.

One person was killed in Essex in an accident on the A12 in Essex last night, and drivers were being warned to take extra care.

A teenager was left fighting for his life after suffering head injuries in a sledging accident in Middlesbrough and a man was taken to hospital in Kent with broken bones in his face when he was racially attacked after confronting a group of youngsters throwing snowballs at him.

Eurostar, Virgin Trains, First Capital Connect, Southeastern, Southern and South West Trains were all facing disruption.

There were delays on some London Underground lines, mainly because of late finishes to engineering work, while the bad weather caused hold-ups on the London Overground service.

A woman, believed to be in her 20s, died after being found collapsed in the snow.

She was discovered by a man walking his dog in Church Meadow, Deal, Kent, at 7.30am yesterday and pronounced dead at the scene.

A police spokesman said: "The woman's death is not being treated as suspicious but it is unexplained. A post-mortem examination will be held later this week."

The AA warned of people driving so-called "snowman cars" by not clearing off the piles of snow on top of their vehicles before getting behind the wheel.

Motorists were also advised to make sure they clear their windscreens properly, with many spotted peering through small openings "as if they were driving a tank".

The AA said it was expecting today to be one of the busiest days for call-outs this winter, at more than 17,000.

Breakdowns were being reported at a rate of around 2,000 an hour with the busiest areas the Midlands, London, and the South West and South East of England.

The company said that one of its own 4x4 patrol vehicles was written off in Surrey after it went too fast round a bend and skidded on ice.

It also warned people to be careful when they are parking as the snow can hide hazards. It reported one man who got stuck on his snow-covered lawn after he could not see where his drive was and someone else who had to be freed in a car park after not knowing where the tarmac was.

Durham Police said strong winds were causing drifts, making for poor driving conditions.

Northumbria Police blamed drifts for the closure of the A68 north of the Stagshaw Roundabout to the Scottish Border.

Neil Farrington, a 42-year-old senior lecturer at Sunderland University, said conditions around his home in Castleside, County Durham, were as bad as the "horrendous" winter two years ago.

The father of three said: "All the schools round here are closed so I have a house full of kids and dogs and none of them want to go out."

The East of England Ambulance Service issued a warning after reports of at least a dozen sledging-related injuries.

While none was life-threatening, some children and adults sustained broken bones or head injuries requiring hospital treatment.

A spokeswoman said: "People should ensure they are well wrapped up and always in control while sledging and wear safety gear as appropriate.

"The fun really isn't worth it if you wind up with a painful injury in A&E."

London Fire Brigade warned people to stay off the ice after being called to rescue two men who had fallen through frozen lakes to rescue their dog yesterday. Crews also rescued a child who was stuck on his sledge in the middle of a frozen lake.

Jim Knighton, the brigade's assistant commissioner for operational procedures, said: "To put it bluntly, it's extremely fortunate we weren't faced with a fatality yesterday. If people fall into an icy lake, hypothermia will quickly set in and they won't survive for very long.

"People with dogs should keep them on a lead and keep a close eye on them. If a pet ends up in trouble, call 999 and stay put, rather than attempting to rescue it yourself.

"Parents should also talk to their children about the dangers of going on the ice. Ice may look sturdy enough to stand on but it usually isn't and easily breaks."

Eurostar said snow and ice in the UK and northern France were leading to speed restrictions and delays on all its trains. Six services were also cancelled, with customers told they could exchange their tickets for another date.

South West Trains said it was running a revised timetable throughout its network because of the weather, and would be concentrating on its mainline services.

Southern said trains were unable to operate between Lewes and Haywards Heath in Sussex or between Horsham and Dorking or Reigate and Redhill in Surrey. The Southern service between South Croydon and Milton Keynes was also suspended.

Virgin Trains said there was disruption to its services between London Euston and Birmingham and the North West but it was running normal services to Scotland.

Speaking as he signed a memorial book to commemorate the lives of those killed in the Holocaust, David Cameron said he expected his youngest daughter, Florence, to make a snowman.

Discussing the snow that has settled in London, he said: "You never normally see, after a few days, the snow still on the trees ...

"I was just talking to my two-year-old daughter and said that she has got to make a snowman this afternoon, while it's all still there... the first time they see snow is an exciting moment."

Around 900 schools and nurseries were closed across Yorkshire, north and north-east Lincolnshire today.

The worst affected areas included Kirklees, where nearly 200 schools were closed due to snow, Barnsley, North Yorkshire and Leeds.

More than 100 schools were closed in Leeds, while around 70 were shut in Bradford and Sheffield.

Some roads were closed to snow, despite gritting and ploughing operations taking place around the clock in many areas.

In many places, teams of council staff were spreading grit by hand in order to keep essential services open and public transport running.

Leeds Bradford Airport was closed for a short period while snow was cleared from the runway.

A message on the airport's website advised passengers they might experience some delays.

Other services across Yorkshire were disrupted as a result of the snow, including health services and rubbish collections.

Women in Calderdale were being advised that appointments at a mobile breast screening unit across Halifax and Huddersfield had been cancelled due to the severe conditions.

Councillor David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association's children and young people board, said: "Routes to large schools are gritting priorities for local authorities as they know how important keeping them open is, both in terms of continuity of teaching for pupils and avoiding costly and disruptive childcare for parents.

"Ultimately, headteachers, in consultation with school governors, make the final decision on whether or not to close a school. This is based on a range of local circumstances including the number of teachers who can make it into work safely, dangerous road conditions, or problems with vital supplies such as food, heating or water."

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