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March 7th 2017

A “hugely violent” avalanche hit a French ski resort hugely popular with British holidaymakers today.

A “mass of snow and impacted ice” hit the Carline piste in the Val Claret area of Tignes, in the Savoie department, covering “numerous people on the slopes”.

“Hundreds of skiers and snowboarders were setting off for a day’s skiing when the avalanche struck,” said an emergency services worker at the scene.

“There had been avalanche warnings, but this was on a monitored piste. Conditions are making searches difficult.”

The source said a rescue helicopter had been scrambled to the scene, along with sniffer dogs and police search teams.

There was no initial guidance on casualties, but a police spokesman also told of “many covered by the avalanche”.

He said the alarm was raised at 10.06am, and the entire ski area was closed soon afterwards. The avalanche risk had been put at 4 out of 5 today.

On February 13, two teenage boys were among four French snowboarders killed in an avalanche at Tignes.

The snowboarders, led by an instructor, died when a wall of snow swept through an off-piste area.

The group had been walking off-piste in the south-eastern resort with their snowboards in their hands when the avalanche hit.

The group, which included a 48-year-old man, his 15-year-old son and the son's 19-year-old half-brother, as well as the experienced and well-known instructor, 59, were only a few dozen metres from the ski lift.

Nov 18th

Commuters are facing travel chaos as parts of Britain are walloped by wintry weather - including ice, sleet, rare thundersnow and plunging temperatures - that has made driving treacherous.

Cars flipped or slid off roads as dangerous conditions wreaked havoc in north-west and south-west England, western Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, prompting weather warnings from the Met Office and alerts for drivers.

An yellow warning for ice was issued for a large area - from south Wales to the West Midlands in England and up to the Scottish Highlands.

An Amsterdam-bound Flybe flight was forced to return to Manchester after it was struck by lightning, the Manchester Evening News reports.

Britons who are struggling to get to work or school in hazardous icy conditions, snow or winter showers on Friday morning could see more wintry weather into the weekend.

Nov 9th 2016 UK polar vortex 

Last December was the warmest since records began in 1910 – but the UK's run of mild winters could be about to end.

An icy polar vortex could descend from the Arctic in the coming months and cause temperatures to plummet, the Met Office has warned.

There is an "increased risk of cold snaps between now and Christmas,” the forecaster said in a recent blog post.

Several factors could make the possibility of a cold start to winter more likely, from tropical rainfall conditions to disruption to air flow over the equator, it said.

But there is a higher chance this year that "weak stratospheric circulation" caused by a polar vortex could bring icy winds and freezing weather to the country.

What is a polar vortex?

A polar vortex is a mass of very cold air which sits above the Earth’s north and south poles.

This dense, cold air is controlled by a large pocket of low pressure, which rotates in an anti-clockwise direction at the north pole and clockwise at the south pole.

Why does it move south from the poles?

The strength of a polar vortex varies from year to year. When it is strong, the vortex is concentrated over the Arctic or Antarctic area.

But when it is weak – which is more frequent – it can split into two or more freezing vortices.

These cover a larger area and can move south to Canada, the USA and Europe, increasing the risk of air temperatures decreasing to potentially dangerous levels.

When is it coming to the UK?

The polar vortex in the northern hemisphere is weaker than usual this year.

“There’s a higher chance of cold being able to sink southwards, whereas if it was fast, it would stay on its normal track around the poles,” Met Office forecaster Emma Sharples told The Independent.

Although polar vortex winds are many kilometers above the ground, they can “influence the strength and position of the jet stream,” according to the Met Office. “This is helping to increase the risk of cold snaps in the UK.”

Ms Sharples said the arrival of a polar vortex could help the jet stream become “more north-south orientated rather than west-east like last winter."

“When there are more kinks in [the jet stream], that means more areas of cold air coming south across the UK,” she said. “But that’s only one thing of many that can affect what kind of weather we can have”.

When is the last time this happened?

A polar vortex made headlines in 2014 when much of the United States was hit by an extended period of cold weather, causing transport chaos and bringing some parts of the country to a halt.

The weather conditions sparked by the vortex were so severe that even the polar bears at Lincoln Park zoo in Chicago had to be brought inside.

In the UK, extreme conditions were experienced in the winter of 2010, when the normal pattern of Arctic winds broke down causing a weakened polar vortex to allow a frigid body of air to move south.

How long could the cold spell last?

Met Office scientist Jeff Knight told The Independent the polar vortex effect on the UK's atmosphere tends to affect the weather "with a few weeks' lag".

Dr Knight emphasised that the vortex was an "external factor" that could influence the weather, rather than being "intimitely linked" with weather conditions.

"You can view the weather as rolling a dice. But something like a weak stratosphere is like loading the dice," he said.

"Because it’s weak, there’s a higher chance we’ll see colder weather with less of the Atlantic storms that bring moisture and warmth to these shores."

He said the weak polar vortex could affect the whole North Atlantic region, meaning the risk of cold snaps is greater for North America as well as Europe.

"It’s important to say that it’s only an increased risk," he said. "There’s still a good chance we’ll have an ordinary winter. We don’t tend to get cold and snowy winters often in the UK, but it’s slightly more likely than usual."

What are the risks?

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were nearly 44,000 extra winter deaths in 2014-15. A particularly cold winter puts elderly and vulnerable people at risk.

The government is encouraging those over 65 and people with health problems to eat hot meals and keep active as part of their ‘Stay Well This Winter’ campaign.

Snow can be beautiful or deadly, the heavy fall pictured above leaves the population completely helpless and at the mercy of the weather, these conditions fortunately are quite rare but less extreme storms happen quite frequently and because of climate change, in recent years have been happening even more often, which makes it even more important that you prepare well in all aspects that can be affected.

You may be stuck in your house for days or even weeks, and this is where your emergency supplies prove invaluable, you can raid your grab-bag, even though it was intended for evacuation if you are short of essential supplies it will keep you going, this is one of the few times when it is a disadvantage to work from home, not having to worry about transport difficulties you can be expected to just carry on, the children of course being the excused school after few days when the excitement dies down, they have to be amused to prevent the havoc of boredom.

On the downside of course heavy fall can be very damaging, many roofs have collapsed under the colossal weight of several feet of accumulation, you can when looking at pictures of houses in different countries get a good idea of the country they are from by looking at the pitch of the roof, in countries where a heavy fall was expected regularly a high pitched roof is essential to stop too much weight gathering on the roof.

You must also be very careful if you try to clear your roof between storms this is a relatively dangerous practice and there have been many deaths and injuries caused, when there are high winds during a storm it can gather in drifts many feet in depth, if you’re obliged to a abandon your car as it gets completely covered you should tie something to the top of your radio aerial and put it up as high as you can, this may be the only indication that the plow driver can see.

Staying in your vehicle may be your only option, if you are wise you will have prepared your vehicle according to the advice given in the vehicle preparation section of this website, but remember you can only run the engine for 5 minutes of every hour if you make sure that the exhaust is clear and not blocked in, this is another occasion where your grab-bag will prove extremely useful.

The weight of gathered snow will also be increased if the temperature is low enough to cause ice to form during these storms, then when it finally melts there’s the added danger of flooding, I think it is fair to say that heavy fall brings many problems, and you need to prepare otherwise you’ll be in trouble.

Fortunately with modern communication systems these dangerous situations can be monitored easily and warnings issued by local government, civil defense, police, local radio and television, or maybe you haven’t got those devices on or you may be away from home.

Then there is also the lifesaver,, they constantly monitor threats and have a system which will quickly put the threats up on these pages.

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