Heavy snow stops London in its tracks

LONDON – A beautiful yet crippling blanket of snow fell across much of England on Monday, causing transportation nightmares but giving rise to thousands of cheery snowmen in a nation barely equipped for heavy winter weather.

Nearly a foot of snow had landed in London by midday and another solid dump was expected Monday night in what meteorologists called the heaviest snowfall in nearly two decades. Snow also caused transportation disruptions in France and Ireland, as the icy weather blew westward across northern Europe.

Most schools closed, and millions of workers were unable to make their daily commutes. The capital’s entire fleet of red public buses were off the roads, unable to move from their garages.

Major highways were brought to a standstill, with reports of traffic jams of more than 50 miles on the M25, the highway that rings London.

Air travel was also a nightmare, with service at most of greater London’s five major airports either suspended or severely curtailed. A spokesman for the U.K.’s national weather service, said it was the most severe snow since 1991.

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