Snow grips Britain, causing travel disruption and sparking energy concerns

Snow hit London on Sunday evening and continued into Monday.
London CNN  — 

Snow has blanketed London and large parts of the United Kingdom on Monday, shutting schools, grounding flights and causing widespread disruption across a country struggling through a winter energy crisis.

Britain recorded the coldest day of the year during the early hours of Monday morning, with temperatures as low as minus 15.7 degrees Celsius (4 degrees Fahrenheit) in northern Scotland, according to the Met Office, the UK’s national weather service.

The cold snap left many parts of the country, including London, covered in snow from Sunday evening. The Met Office issued severe weather warnings for some parts of the country.

Motorists were urged to avoid driving in several locations, with some forced to abandon their cars. Many schools were closed. Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports, which all serve the capital, warned of delays and flight cancellations.

Despite the disruption, the arrival of snow two weeks before Christmas brought a festive atmosphere to Britain’s parks and streets.

Snowfall is relatively rare in southern England compared to northern Britain and mainland Europe, and Britons frequently gripe about the ill-preparedness of the country’s infrastructure when cold weather hits.

Inflation and an energy crisis have added to the concerns this year, as household bills have soared and people worry about whether they can afford to heat their homes.

People sledging in the snow at Greenwich Park in London on Monday.

National Grid, which manages much of the UK’s energy supply infrastructure, has instructed two coal-fueled power stations to start warming up, in case the cold weather threatens the country’s power network, Britain’s PA Media news agency reported.

The company said it was a “contingency” plan, which aimed to “give the public confidence in Monday’s energy supply,” according to PA.

Customers of some energy suppliers are also being asked to reduce their consumption for two hours on Monday evening, in a pre-planned test being run by National Grid.

Some parts of the country advised motorists to avoid making journeys unless they are essential.

Sunday’s snow dump came after several days of cold and icy weather which had already caused tragedy in Solihull, central England.

West Midlands Police said three boys, aged 8, 10 and 11, have died in hospital after falling into a lake on Sunday afternoon. A fourth boy, aged six, remains in critical condition.

“Searches of the lake are continuing as we seek to establish exactly what happened and if anyone else fell into the water,” police said in a statement on Monday.