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02 February 2009

Snow in London, city at standstill So in an astonishing turn of events, frozen water has fallen from the sky over England. The ENTIRE London bus network has been closed, as are a couple of the airports. Some bits of the Tube are running.[More:]Me and my boss are the only ones from our team to turn up to work so far. (I'm in walking distance).

How's everyone doing?
I wonder why the Tube is affected? Maybe because of people who couldn't make it to work for various jobs there?

We're cool here. Neither too hot nor too cold, riot forecast is clear to partly rioty as far as I know. Sporadic water dropping from sky, not enough to mess anything up. Except that it's been like that for so long, algae (or something algaelike) is actually growing on some of lesser trafficked streets (like ours), and in our back courtyard.
posted by taz 02 February | 05:18
Most of the Tube network is above ground... it's only in the city centre that the lines are in tunnels.

And even there some of the older cut-and-cover lines run partly overground. Before they had Barlow's Tunnelling Shield they used to just dig up existing roads as enormous trenches which caused massive disruption, so they avoided it when they could. Those are the lines with the big square train carriages instead of little round ones.</transport nerd>
posted by TheophileEscargot 02 February | 05:31
Not much snow here in the urban Midlands, though it's snowing at the moment. 10cm doesn't sound like very much, and in a country which invests in snow preparation it wouldn't be - but here, this much snow is so rare that it wouldn't be worth the expenditure on extra infrastructure (so the argument goes, anyway).

I work from home so as long as the internet is working, I can work. Oh joy. Am expected in Birmingham later (half an hour by train from here) - we'll see how that goes...
posted by altolinguistic 02 February | 05:34
Huh. I didn't think snow was *that* exceedingly rare in the UK. Too bad you didn't get a snow day out of it!
posted by loiseau 02 February | 05:53
mmm. I'm jealous. I'd like a few days of that.
posted by taz 02 February | 06:32
and also, thanks for the explanation, TheophileEscargot; I didn't realize that.
posted by taz 02 February | 06:35
The Waterloo & City Line is closed and that's entirely underground, including the depot. Probably due to staff being sent elsewhere.

The reason cold whether affects the tube so badly is that it's powered by conductor rails, which ice over in cold weather, and stops the pick up shoes making a good contact. Which is also why the main line service south of the Thames (all conductor rail) is knackered, but north of the river (overhead power lines or diesel) it's mostly ok.
posted by cillit bang 02 February | 07:24
That's beautiful, TheophileEscargot. Interesting about how the lines were built, too.
posted by chewatadistance 02 February | 07:43
I was talking to some new friends from NYC about this the other day (they were saying how much warmer it is here than in NYC, which is true) - we had to get their GPS device out to check longitude and found that England is much further north than NYC. We get the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Drift, which means it's warmer here than one might expect from somewhere so far north.

I read somewhere that one consequence of climate change might be the alteration of these currents - and if the North Atlantic Drift is cut off, we'll get colder here rather than warmer. Not sure how much truth there is in that.

(Nice photos, TE - is that Chiswick?)
posted by altolinguistic 02 February | 07:57
We are so fantastically bad at dealing with snow.
posted by chrismear 02 February | 08:22
I know it's causing a lot of problems, but it's SO PRETTY! I like a little snow now and then.

TheDonF is leaving work early to come play; there's almost no one in his office.
posted by Specklet 02 February | 08:26
Yes, the top one's Acton, the others are Chiswick.
posted by TheophileEscargot 02 February | 08:29
Montreal's metro is entirely underground because of the kind of conductors or whatever that it uses.
posted by loiseau 02 February | 08:33
(And obvy, it wouldn't be able to operate five months of the year if it couldn't handle snow.)
posted by loiseau 02 February | 08:33
Here's my back garden, taken at 6am.

≡ Click to see image ≡

That is not a ghostly orb in the middle, but a reflection of an interior light.

I trudged to the station, carrying a heavy backpack, and the trains were running. But the one I was on stood outside Leytonstone station for half an hour (thankfully I had a seat), whilst a faulty train was removed ahead of us. Then the points failed, so mine was the last train going either east or west for a while because they had to suspend the service temporarily.

The Docklands Light Railway was running, albeit with some delays, but I made it into work at about 8.45, having set off at 6.10.

Only three of us - me, and the two new trainees - showed up from my team. There was a unit manager in, but there were so few people that a decision was taken to close the office at noon.

It took me 2 hours to get home, and it was SUCH a trudge up the hill, because I brought home, not only my files to work on at home on Wednesday, but also extra in case I can't get in tomorrow either.

I called at Waitrose on the way home, so this afternoon (when I do NOT have to work) will be spent curled up on the sofa with cheese on toast, hot chocolate and a trashy movie on TV.

There was a suspicious lack of paw prints in the snow this morning, and two cats looking in dire need of a pee. Tempted though I was to put out a litter box, it would take them ten seconds to run down to the shrubs at the end of the garden where they'd have a fair bit of shelter, so I am not giving in to them. In fact, I just heard the cat flap rattle, so at least one of them has been outside now.
posted by essexjan 02 February | 09:22
we're having a ball on the South coast. It's apparently the worst snow fall in 20 years (a Cyprus Air flight slid off the runway when it taxied to a stop in Heathrow so most of the airports are closed now. As CB points out, the infrastructure is simply not up to it. In my neighbourhood we've used all the grit in the box in one night and still only half of the neighbours were able to get up the hill to work.

Unusually NHS London has told staff if they can't get to their normal workplace they should check with the nearest hospital to see if they are needed. I've never heard that happen outside of the July bombings before.
posted by Wilder 02 February | 09:24
Hey Jan!!! (waves!)
We're also curled up on the sofa watching trashy TV and every so often having to drag a hypothermic 11 year old in from the woods for hot drinks.
It's heaven!
posted by Wilder 02 February | 09:28
A snow day is a wonderful thing, assuming you can take off early, a la TheDonF, and not worry about having to accomplish something. It's not very common here for us to get a big enough blast that actually has this effect, but once in awhile, we do get a storm come through that slows down even us northern Ontarians...and we too get to feel small and powerless in the face of the white fluffy stuff!
posted by richat 02 February | 09:29
The snow is falling very heavily now and there's probably at least another 2" then when I took the picture at 6am.
posted by essexjan 02 February | 09:54
*waves back at wilder*

I cleared the path to my front door, and gritted it with cat litter to give traction.

Normally when snow is predicted the council will grit the roads that night before. They didn't bother this time, for reasons best known to themselves. If the snow continues to fall at this rate, I'll be working from home for the next couple of days.
posted by essexjan 02 February | 09:57
Bah! I live in the middle of a bloody valley, so the snow seems to pass us by. We've had about an inch of fall, but it's nothing really. Bah! and Double Bah! When did the South start getting more snow than the North. I wouldn't mind so much, but we get huge summer and autumn rainfall.


As for the tubes being affected... We've actually seen a bit of a slowdown on the internet. We suspect that all the teachers who "couldn't get in to work" are busy looking for retirement cottages in France. (This being what *all* UK teachers do when they get time off)
posted by seanyboy 02 February | 10:05
Great photos!

I love snow, when it's in someone else's city. I can look at pics of it all day.
posted by BoringPostcards 02 February | 10:19
four inches, hm?

we call that "a dusting"

come on, you guys withstood the blitz and a little snow shuts you down? :P
posted by kellydamnit 02 February | 11:07
When it snows in North Carolina and parts south, half the cars go off the road. The obvious reason is that most people don't know how to drive in snow; this is compounded by the prevalence of torquey muscle cars and empty pickup trucks. Folks up north know to buy all-season cars and to fill their pickup beds with something (even the snow from your driveway will do) before driving in snow.

Here's an interesting (YMMV) article on snow removal in Sapporo, Japan, where they really know how to do it since they have massive snowfalls and a quick onset of Spring (follow the "Systems" link for details). Without efficient snow removal into canal systems throughout the city, there would be devastating floods every March.

This requires a significant infrastructure investment and a populace willing to pay higher taxes for efficient snow removal. It just isn't a sound investment in places where it doesn't snow all too often.

Those photos are lovely, TheophileEscargot.
posted by Hugh Janus 02 February | 11:30
Oh, and by the way, Sapporo's on the same latitude as Rome.
posted by Hugh Janus 02 February | 11:38
Yeah- when I came from the UK to the US, I was astonished at how easily snow was cleared from the roads and local railways over here. It's not as if we don't get snow in the UK every year. Now I have got used to it, it is rather nice to wake to the sound of snow ploughs ... :-)
posted by Susurration 02 February | 11:40
doh! stupid caffeine-free week. In my earlier comment, for longitude, read latitude.
posted by altolinguistic 02 February | 11:45
Snow ice cream!
posted by essexjan 02 February | 12:08
I just read it's the worst snow in 18 years in London?

Meanwhile, this photo of abandoned cars on a highway in what looks like 4cm of snow is positively adorable. The lane is bare!!

≡ Click to see image ≡
posted by loiseau 02 February | 12:24
I know, loiseau! As someone who spent years in Massachusetts and upstate New York, it is pretty cute how they shut down the mall at 2.00 this afternoon, because of 3" of snow.

We went for a walk in the park and watched deliriously happy screaming kids sledding and making snowmen.
posted by Specklet 02 February | 12:28
Dammit, I wanted to make some snow ice cream but can't find the vanilla. I thought I'd found it, but it was Olbas Oil. Just as well I looked at the label first.
posted by essexjan 02 February | 12:48
It's funny that in the book I'm reading, England is in exactly this same situation with snow... cars abandoned, businesses closed, streets and motorways empty.
posted by taz 02 February | 12:55
Ice had stopped the clocks of England.

Though the meteorologists had been predicting Siberian conditions for more than a week, the sudden drop in temperature found the country, as usual, unprepared. Trains had ceased to run; aircraft were grounded. Telephone and power lines were down in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire; villages and even small towns in the Southern Counties cut off by drifting snow. The plea from the media was to stay at home; advice that was widely taken, leaving industry and commerce to dwindle and - in some areas - stop entirely. Nobody was moving, and with good reason. Large sections of motorway were closed, either blocked by snow or stranded vehicles; the major roads were a nightmare, the minor roads impassable. To all intents and purposes the Spectred Isle had ground to a halt.
posted by taz 02 February | 12:59
loiseau, that picture is too funny.

[/snickering in Toronto]
posted by heatherann 02 February | 13:04
loiseau, that link to the Daily Mail article has the most wonderful pictures of St James's park and the Serpentine in the snow. Which was on my daily cycle commute. I miss London. I don't miss the M25 (so M25 traffic is stopped, nose-to-tail - what's new?). But I do miss living in Shepherds Bush and participating in real city life ...
posted by Susurration 02 February | 13:39
Ha! The park was packed when I walked to work this morning - lots of kids and parents building snowmen and having snowball fights. It was rather lovely and picturesque - I wish I'd had a camera to record the 6' snow cat someone had created. The sky was eerily red very early this morning:

≡ Click to see image ≡

My backyard at 1.30am:

≡ Click to see image ≡

and it got rather worse later this morning.

There was two of us in the office, the two who live within walking distance, and we ensured all of the support shifts for today and tomorrow were covered then skived off for mulled Pimms and snowballs.

Theophile Escargot - I can see that church spire from my living room window, but can't read the sreet sign in your pic. I'm up near Acton Vale, in Bromyard Ave. Hi neighbour!
posted by goo 02 February | 14:07
Aaargh, I'm just off Vyner Road... scarily close!
posted by TheophileEscargot 02 February | 16:17
Leaving my flat:
≡ Click to see image ≡

Trek up here to reach the railway station:
≡ Click to see image ≡

Where the trains were actually running:
≡ Click to see image ≡

The road near my office:
≡ Click to see image ≡
posted by cillit bang 02 February | 17:18
Happythread! || This video contains a nearly dangerous amount of awesomeness: