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Severe Blizzard

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  • Location: Guildford, Surrey.
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms & Snow
  • Location: Guildford, Surrey.

    Having had 30 years experience of weather observations I have reached a point where I would like to share them with other readers through facts, pictures and short(ish!) descriptions. I will choose events I remember personally, unless there is an event of outstanding historic interest which needs a mention. Please feel free to share your experiences of these particular events and post photographs so a library of information can be made.

    Posts will be added at times of anniversaries of such events.

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  • Location: Guildford, Surrey.
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms & Snow
  • Location: Guildford, Surrey.

    Tuesday 26th September 1933

    Fleet, Hampshire.

    Not remembered personally but a good event to kick off this topic.

    A sluggish Easterly situation produced an afternoon thunderstorm event which centered on Fleet. 131 mm rain (5.16 inches) fell during the afternoon and early evening resulting in severe floods, burst sewerage pipelines, a land slip on the Waterloo to Southamption raiway line near Winchfield plus damage to property.

    The synoptic situation is as follows;


    I suspect a sea breeze convergence would have had a major role in causing this supercell to stay in one position over a 4-5 hour period. The deluge was localised with little rain at Farnborough (7.5 mm) and totals remained high in a N.W. direction including about 80 mm at Hartley Wintney (about 5 km from Fleet).

    A major tributary of the River Hart would have been in the main catchment area of this downpour and the raised flow rate and volume of water would almost certainly have been responsible for the land slip on the railway. This river reacts quickly in heavy rain and the local stream normally 5~10 cm deep reaches depths of 40~50 cm even after just 20 mm or rain. During the 20th July 2007 heavy rain (53 mm in 6 hours at Fleet), this stream reached a depth of at least 1 metre and washed away vegetation from the bank and had sufficient force to remove some flagstones lining the bank.

    Although the area was much less urbanised in 1933, runoff would have been considerable and one can only guess on the extent of flash flooding. Oddly enough, no elderly residents who I have spoken to about this storm seem to have any recollections although there was one report of the marshy land to the west of the town being innundated in the '30's'.

    The quantity of rain in this thunderstorm still stands as a county record.

    There is a good account of this event in: The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Weather Book by Mark Davison, Ian Currie & Bob Ogley.

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  • Location: Ash, Surrey/Hampshire Border Farnborough 4 miles
  • Weather Preferences: All
  • Location: Ash, Surrey/Hampshire Border Farnborough 4 miles

    Interesting, SB

    I was recently given a book called "Since Records Began" which details the

    extremes of our strange weather here in the British Isles.

    The guy who wrote it writes a column in the Times about weather and it is

    very interesting. I don't know why we think these extremes are down to

    AGW...beyond me!

    Anyway, it's worth a read...



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    • 1 month later...
  • Location: Guildford, Surrey.
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms & Snow
  • Location: Guildford, Surrey.

    Snow on 23rd November.

    After the unusually early season snowfall of 28th~29th October it was quite a surprise to be visited by another snow event less than four weeks later - especially as the snow materialised as forecast (bettering many winter events of recent years). Today's snow was short lived and a light dusting lasting from 6:30 am soon thawed between 9 am and 10 am as heavy rain set in for a time. Although the event was 'slight', two snow events in the space of a month before winter is unusual and the last time this happened was in 1980 (Wednesday 5th~Friday 7th and Friday 28th November).

    Interestingly, there was also a snow event on Tuesday 23rd November 1971 producing similar qunatities in the S.E. to today. On that occasion, a front moved S.E. into cold air over Southern England with snow falling before dawn before turning to 'cold rain' (max. temp. no higher than 2 deg C). The weather in November 1971 had been variable with wild temperature fluctuations with mild warm sectors and daytime maxima of 14~15 deg C followed by cold fronts and clear, calm frosty nights. For example on the 20th, -6 deg C was recorded at Fleet, Hampshire before fronts and heavy rain spread East with gales and milder conditions. The cold air had returned by the 22nd with the almost perfect timing of the next front to arrive during the coldest period to result in snow.

    Cold snaps around 23rd November are not too uncommon with mostly frosty and foggy anticyclonic spells dominating such as in 2005, 1999, 1993, 1989, 1988 & 1983. In 1993, during a notable easterly blast, the maximum temperature on this date in Guildford was only -1 deg C, the earliest occasion in the autumn-winter for an ice day.

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    • 2 weeks later...
  • Location: Guildford, Surrey.
  • Weather Preferences: Thunderstorms & Snow
  • Location: Guildford, Surrey.

    The snowfalls and very cold weather of December 1981.

    Here is an account of a memorable spell of severe weather which resulted in the development of my interest in weather, including my love of severe events. These observations were made at Fleet, Hampshire.

    December 1981 began with an anticyclone to the N.W. of the U.K. and rather cold foggy weather with night frosts. A milder spell followed on the 3rd with the highest temperature of the month being 8.5 deg.C on the 4th. A N.W. airflow developed after the weak cold front moved S.E. This cooler period ushered in a period of rather cloudy weather on the 5th to 7th with light rain at times as waves moved S.E. along the front. It was already cold enough for snow in Scotland on the 7th. Overnight, a more active depression moved S.E. engaging very cold air to the north. As the front moved south, areas to the east of Salisbury Plain were treated to sudden heavy snowfalls. This snow was memorable because it was not forecast. A fantastic week followed and one wonders how many posts plus happy and satisfied weather observers there would be if such an event like the 8th~14th December were to be repeated today!! This would be in the realms of a true 'gift'. Even in 1981 I considered the timing of this near Christmas to be 'spot on' and is still the most wonderful lead up to Christmas that I have ever experienced – probably sadly to never be repeated.

    Tuesday 8th December: The day dawned with moderate rain which had snow mixed after about 7:30 am. By 8 am, snow was falling quite heavily and there was a light covering on some ground by 8:15 am. The walk to school was enjoyable but the walk home was even better as about 2~4 cm snow had settled on most surfaces. The snow died out at around midday and cloud cleared south fairly rapidly to allow sunshine onto this winter wonderland.



    Wednesday 9th December: A very cold sunny morning ushered in cloud associated with a line of coastal showers. There was little snow at Fleet but moderate snow was observed at Haselmere and rainfall records show that 2 mm precipitation fell at Guildford on this day.


    Thursday 10th December: An even colder day with extensive freezing fog all day. I remember the snow cover being patchy and beginning to look 'tired', even on higher ground to the south of Fleet (Beacon Hill, near Farnham). Despite thick fog, the evening saw the temperature dropping again.


    Friday 11th December: This was the main event in this period. Heavy snow fell in the second part of the night, through the morning and into the afternoon before dying out. Depths in the back garden – see photos – were around the 10 cm mark in exposed areas but I remember being pushed over in the school Rugby field and snow was about 20 cm deep. Needless to say, schools closed early on this Friday and being sent home at 2 pm allowed me time to take the photos on my relatively new Ricoh 500 35 mm camera. The evening news was filled with exciting snow scenes and it was a joy to see southern England in the news for a change from the ubiquitous events further north.


    post-7417-1228499646_thumb.jpg post-7417-1228499702_thumb.jpg post-7417-1228499734_thumb.jpg

    post-7417-1228499769_thumb.jpg post-7417-1228499794_thumb.jpg post-7417-1228499820_thumb.jpg

    post-7417-1228499851_thumb.jpg post-7417-1228499906_thumb.jpg

    Saturday 12th December: The cloud cleared overnight to leave a sunny day. Conditions were intensely cold with maxima not exceeding -5 deg. C. at Fleet and -7 deg. C. at Farnham. Although the sunshine was quite bright and clear in the southern portion of the sky, the second photo shows patches of cirrus to the west. Despite slowly encroaching cloud cover, the temperature plummeted to –11 deg. C. by 6 pm as quoted by the local weather observer. I remember the BBC TV forecast that evening – there was talk of more snow on Sunday but the real interest was the widespread blue temperature symbols showing values of -20 deg. C. A '-13' was positioned over the Hampshire area and indeed, the temperature did drop to -13 deg. C. before rising from advancing cloud.


    post-7417-1228499940_thumb.jpg post-7417-1228499970_thumb.jpg

    Sunday 13th December: The snow event was oddly enough not especially well remembered but the impact of it has left this day as an icon for impressive severe weather which will stay for many years. The morning was dull with the temperature close to freezing. By midday the wind was increasing and blowing the snow off the trees. The snow started around 2:45 pm and was mostly moderate but was mostly blowing sideways from the S.E.! A real blizzard was developing nicely and conditions were deteriorating by the hour. Just after dusk conditions must have been atrocious (but thoroughly exciting) if venturing or working outdoors. I often wonder how I would manage in my supermarket car park job if we were lucky enough to get a recurrence of such an event like the 13th December 1981! There was a local power failure from 5:45 pm to 7:15 pm and I vividly remember the eerie sound of swaying trees and the S.E.ly gale howling through my Dad's amateur radio masts above the house. The 350 watt Honda generator was about to be deployed for electricity as we expected the weather to become even more severe. However, the supply was restored and conditions relented slightly. Snow depths must have reached 15 cm during this event but with the temperature above 'zero', the snow was probably melting as it landed. By 9 pm, snow had turned to rain and winds became lighter as the depression passed over southern England. Barometric pressure dropped to about 970 mb during the passage of the blizzard. Reading University data shows a gust of 36 mph during the blizzard part of the storm but gusts of 50~52 mph near midnight as the winds veered N.W. With a period of rain, there was a thaw to the snow which would last for a few hours.


    Monday 14th December: This was a windy day with a gusty N.W. wind, sunny periods with hail and sleet showers. In some areas these showers were accompanied by thunder – another element to add to this already exciting month. There was a thaw to the lying snow which was about 5~6 cm deep on running to school. The journey to school was cut short by a teacher drawing up in her car and saying I may as well go home as the school is closed due to ice. It was good to have another day off school – although by 5 pm there was a dreary feeling that all the excitement was over and things were returning to normal.


    The next few days produced little interesting weather but nevertheless were still very cold. The snow mostly thawed out but some patches remained.

    Saturday 19th December: A cold night led to a sunny day with thickening cloud. Further west, conditions were wretched with heavy rain, snow and gales. This southerly gale was most severe in Cornwall where there was the tragic loss of life as the Penlee lifeboat was lost at sea.


    Sunday 20th December: A windy morning (Reading University – 48 mph) with rising temperatures (2.5 deg. C.) oddly enough brought snow which fell quite heavily but led to little covering. As temperatures dropped at the surface, the snow turned to rain – possibly due to a change of wind direction at higher altitudes. This was a messy situation and I don't personally remember lying snow on the 20th but runways were closed at Gatwick Airport and snow was deep in Eastern areas.


    Monday 21st December: Conditions were cold with sleety drizzle which turned to snow in the late afternoon and became heavier in the evening.


    Tuesday 22nd December: Periods of heavy snow overnight led to another moderate covering of about 7~8 cm by morning. A depression had developed in the English Channel and had halted Sunday's front before allowing it to push back west. The day remained dull with snow dying out but clearing skies in the evening brought severe frost.


    The lead up to Christmas continued very cold with quite deep snow cover and indeed there was lying snow for Christmas Day. This was not a white Christmas as no snow was actually observed to fall on the day.

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    The thaw came on the 27th as a depression and fronts edged in from the west. However the frontal precipitation was rain rather than snow and the next few days brought periods of heavy rain and milder conditions. A temperature of 10 deg. C was not reached in December 1981.

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    Details of December 1981 - (min / max / rainfall / wind direction details).

    1st -2, 4.5, Nil, Variable or north

    2nd -2, 5, Nil, North.

    3rd 2, 8, 0.25 mm, N.W.

    4th 4, 8.5, 0.5 mm, N.N.W.

    5th 2.5, 6.5, Trace, N.W.

    6th 1.5, 6, Nil, W.N.W.

    7th 2.5, 6.5, 2.75 mm, West or W.S.W.

    8th -1, 0.5 12.75 mm, N.E. backing to North.

    9th -5.5, -1, Nil, W.N.W. or West

    10th -6, -3.5, Nil, Calm or West

    11th -5.5, -1, 10.75 mm, N.E.

    12th -9.5, -5, Nil, Calm

    13th -13, 3, 10 mm, S.S.E. / S.E. veering S.W.

    14th -1, 4, 6 mm, N.W.

    15th 0.5, 4.5, Trace, East

    16th -4.5, 0.5, Nil, E.N.E.

    17th -6, 0, Nil, East

    18th -5.5, 0, Trace, N.E.

    19th -9, 0.5, Nil, North becoming calm or S.E.

    20th -1.5, 2.5, 14.25 mm, South or S.S.E.

    21st -1, 0.5, 3.75 mm, East

    22nd -1, -0.5, 6.5 mm, North

    23rd -7.5, -1.5, Nil, East

    24th -3, -1, Nil, N.E.

    25th -2, 0, Nil, Variable

    26th -6, -1, Nil, E.S.E.

    27th -2, 2, 1 mm, S.E. then S.W.

    28th 0.5, 3, 0.5 mm, E.S.E.

    29th 2.5, 5.5, 12.5 mm, S.E. becoming S.W.

    30th 5.5, 8.5, 4.5 mm, South

    31st 1.5, 7, 0.5 mm, S.W.

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  • Location: South Derbyshire nr. Burton on Trent, Midlands, UK: alt 262 feet
  • Weather Preferences: Extreme winter cold,heavy bowing snow,freezing fog.Summer 2012
  • Location: South Derbyshire nr. Burton on Trent, Midlands, UK: alt 262 feet

    Excellent reports there SB, and a most enjoyable read of your records and memories and brilliant photos of the snow, yes it would take a very special December indeed to match December 1981 with CET of 0.3c.


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  • Location: Derbyshire Peak District 290 mts. Wind speed 340 mts
  • Weather Preferences: Rain/snow, fog, gales and cold in every season
  • Location: Derbyshire Peak District 290 mts. Wind speed 340 mts

    I'll second that, S.B.

    Apart from my own records, an enduring memory of Dec' 1981 is of pruning Thorn trees one morning with the temperature between -15 and -18c. The trees were covered in thick rime which showered down your neck at the slightest touch and the arboricultural paint we were ( supposed to be ) using set into a solid block in the tin and had to be placed in a bonfire to melt it.

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    • 2 months later...

    Hi, reading through the above brought back memories of riding my old BSA back from a party in the early hours of the 14th of December 1981 from Matlock to Derby, I nearly froze to death and I remember on the news the next night there being reports of the coldest temperatures but I wasn't sure if the temperature in Derbyshire had gone as low as the -20's or if that was just Scotland, where can I find out what the temperature was that night in Matlock Derbyshire.

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