Snow-Wary U.K. Braces for Its Own, Rare Winter Storm

January 31, 2019, 12:35 PM UTC

While the U.S. has been obsessed with its polar vortex all week, the United Kingdom is bracing for well-below-freezing temperatures and its first big snowfalls of the season.

As the storm moves across southwest England and Wales and north to Scotland on Thursday and Friday, it’s expected to deposit up to 10 cm (4 in) of snow very quickly. The Met Office weather agency warned there could be a danger to life: “There is a good chance that some rural communities could become cut off. Power cuts are likely and other services, such as mobile phone coverage, could be affected.”

The airports in Manchester and Liverpool were forced to close runways for a few hours Wednesday to deal with initial snowfall.

The five London airports remain open for now, with “standard winter operations,” City A.M. reports, though London City Airport has extra de-icing vehicles with staff on standby. The Met Office warned that rail travel and air travel in the south could face cancellations or disruption from the cold snap. Heathrow and Gatwick said passengers should check with airlines on the status of their flights.

Transport for London is “working around the clock” to ensure the snow has minimal effect on the Tube, bus, rail and road networks.

The Guardian reports cold weather welfare payments have already gone into effect this winter. An estimated 3.8 million people on certain public benefits are eligible for a payment of £25 ($33) for each period of unseasonably cold weather.