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-14 0 - Britain paralysed as icy grip tightens.

Byline: STEPHEN WHITE, JASON LAMPORT and ANDY LINES

ARCTIC weather paralysed Britain yesterday as temperatures plunged to minus 14C.

Heavy snow, freezing fog and black ice made travel horrendous.

The Met Office even reported spectacular lightning storms off the North East coast of England.

Weathermen predict a thaw tomorrow - and warned the year will end with yet more flooding.

Heavy snow blanketed north east and south west England and northern Scotland yesterday.

In Wales, more snow showers were forecast for Anglesey and Gwynedd.

But there wasn't enough snow in some areas of Scotland with many ski centres staying shut.

AA Roadwatch warned motorists only to travel if it was absolutely necessary and to take blankets with them in case they got stuck in the snow.

The AA took more than 3,500 breakdown calls an hour - its busiest day of the year.

A 66-year-old man collapsed and died while clearing snow from his drive in the West Midlands. Ronald Webster, of Blakenall, Walsall, is thought to have suffered a heart attack.

Around 70 postal workers at Liverpool's West Derby sorting office walked out, claiming weather conditions were too bad to deliver mail.

Freezing fog and heavy traffic caused chaos on stretches of the southbound M6 in Cheshire.

In the Midlands, the M40 near Oxford was closed while the M5 in the West Midlands was partly blocked.

Four inches of snow fell in parts of Northumberland, Co Durham, Tyneside and Cleveland.

The sports programme was hit with all four of yesterday's race meetings in Britain cancelled. Many of today's football and rugby matches have been postponed.

Gritter teams were out through the night but the salt will have little effect if temperatures drop below -10 C.

In Cornwall 20 gritting vehicles travelled more than 1,400 miles trying to melt the snow and ice with salt.

Kevin Bryant, of Cornwall Council, said: "Everyone we have is out there trying to keep the roads clear."

A massive effort was under way at Luton Airport to get 17,000 passengers to their destinations. Airlines were working flat out to de-ice planes.

An ambulance could not reach the victim of a sledge accident on Dartmoor because of cars blocking its route.

A police four wheel drive vehicle had to transfer the injured man to the ambulance.

A farmer accidentally shot himself in the foot after slipping on ice near Torrington, Devon.

A snow boarder had to be airlifted to hospital after dislocating his shoulder in a fall near Petersfield, Hants.

But the weather freeze has led to a big drop in crime.

Police in Llandudno, north Wales, said yesterday: "There have been few incidents in the last few days."

The big freeze brings to an end a year of crazy weather. It began with the sunniest winter since records began in 1909 and peaked with the wettest autumn for more than 200 years.

AT least 41 people have been killed as a massive ice storm sweeps across the US.

Conditions are so bad in Arkansas that the state's governor described the situation as "apocalyptic".

Mike Huckabee said: "It's like a sort of a nuclear accident."

A total of 22 people died in Texas, 11 in Oklahoma, four in New Mexico, two in Arkansas and one each in Missouri and Minnesota.

CAPTION(S):

CO<LD BLAST: Moortop near Pickering, North Yorks; BORN FREEZE: Lions at Blair Drummond park, Scotland; COLD STEEL: Angel of the North statue in Gateshead; SKI-KINI: Michelle Marsh braves the chill in Disley, Cheshire
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 30, 2000
Words:582
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