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UPDATE: East Lancashire hit by snow again
6:20pm Friday 22nd March 2013 in Blackburn
SCHOOLS have been forced to shut their doors because of the snow.
Colne Christ Church CofE Primary School and Roughlee CofE Primary School have both announced that they will not open today because of the adverse weather conditions.
Blizzards were also reported on the Grane Road in Haslingden but all other major roads were coping well with the weather after extensive gritting overnight.
The country is tonight bracing itself for more horrendous weather conditions which are believed to have claimed a first victim, closed hundreds of schools and brought travel chaos.
A landslide and floodwater in Cornwall, thought to have been triggered by torrential rain, smashed through a block of flats partially collapsing the building.
Tonight emergency crews and specialist investigators found a woman's body after picking through debris at the Veronica flats in Looe.
The body is believed to be that of Susan Norman, who is in her 60s and police said was unaccounted for, having not been heard from since returning to the flats last night.
More than a dozen residents in Sandplace Road were evacuated after most of the building's front-facing wall crumbled away, with debris and mud crashing on to the back of the property from the road behind it.
More flooding is expected in the South West as heavy rain continued while residents mopped up.
Further north, snow blanketed many areas and closed several hundred schools.
As forecasters warned this month could be the coldest March in 50 years, officials issued weather and travel warnings dashing any hopes of spring.
Thousands of youngsters got a day off school as several hundred shut their doors.
A number were closed across the Bradford and Huddersfield areas while in Derbyshire, dozens of schools, colleges and nurseries were also closed, as were several roads, mainly in the north of the county. Many schools in Nottinghamshire also shut their doors.
Nearly 200 schools shut across weather-weary North Wales as a result of the heavy snow, including 61 in the Wrexham area.
Flintshire was also badly affected, with almost all the county's schools closed.
In the West Midlands, nearly 230 schools shut their doors to pupils, with many reporting burst pipes and frozen heating systems.
Staffordshire was badly hit, with 170 closing, but there was also disruption in Walsall, Dudley and Wolverhampton.
Up to 8in (20.3cm) of snow is expected to hit the worst-affected parts of north west England, North Wales and south west Scotland.
Higher areas could even see up to 16in (40.6cm), while bitterly cold gale-force winds create blizzard-like conditions and plunge temperatures down to well below freezing.
John Lee, forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said it could be the coldest March in 50 years.
He said the average temperature expected for central England at this time of year is 6C (42.8F), but so far this month the average is 2.2 degrees below that - at 3.8C (38.8F).
That is significantly colder than last March, when averages were 8.3C (46.9F) - 2.3 degrees above the expected average.
"Comparing it to similar winters, it's provisionally going to be the coldest March in 50 years, although that can't be confirmed until we reach the end of the month," Mr Lee said.
He referred to 1962 - when average temperatures were even colder, at 2.8C (37F), adding: "That will take some beating.
"But the way we are going it looks like we are heading towards being the coldest March since then."
More snow is forecast for many areas, he said, but gradually, by the end of Saturday and the end of Sunday, it will be mostly dry.
The Environment Agency warned of further flooding in south west England because of persistent and heavy rain, with southern parts of Cornwall and Devon most at risk.
In total tonight 12 flood warnings were issued and 81 less serious flood alerts.
The Met Office issued a number of severe weather warnings, urging the public to be prepared for "severe disruption" to transport and energy services In Yorkshire, Leeds Bradford International Airport suspended all flights due to "adverse weather conditions" and snow also caused severe traffic problems and school closures across West Yorkshire.
Drivers had to contend with snow, strong winds and floods, with a number of roads affected by fallen trees.
Roads were affected in Scotland, Cumbria, Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Lancashire as well as Wrexham, North Wales, Cornwall, West Sussex and Dorset.
The AA issued warnings to motorists that even short journeys could be difficult, and there could be a repeat of the scenes in southern England last week when hundreds of drivers were stranded in their cars overnight.
Darron Burness, the AA's head of special operations, said: "It's going to be a real witch's brew of driving wind, rain and snow, which will inevitably cause disruption on the roads."
Police in Cumbria established a multi-agency "Gold Group" to co-ordinate its response after 20 calls this morning asking for help after multiple crashes, impassable roads from trees falling, road signs blowing over and heavy snowfall.
In Birmingham, weather woes caused gridlock after melting snow flooded the St Chad's Queensway tunnel, shutting the key road artery and leaving traffic backed up along main routes into the city centre.
Engineers spent all morning trying to pump the water out of the tunnel.
On the railways, flooding meant a house became unstable on the line near Looe in Cornwall, affecting First Great Western train services, and no alternative transport could be laid on because of poor road conditions.
There were also delays near Hatton in the West Midlands, Ilkley station in West Yorkshire, Shrewsbury and West Sussex.
The Local Government Association said council gritting and ploughing teams were out in force to try to ensure main roads remained passable.
Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association's economy and transport board, said hundreds of thousands of tonnes of salt had been spread this winter, but hundreds of thousands more tonnes were available in council depots and new deliveries were coming in.
He also urged people to check elderly or vulnerable neighbours to ensure they were well.
Electricity North West said about 1,500 properties in Cumbria remained without power but repair work was being held back by road closures, preventing access to some communities.
The company is considering using a helicopter to transport engineers.
She said: "Engineers have been out during the day trying to restore power to parts of Cumbria after supplies were affected by the poor weather overnight.
"While many supplies were quickly restored around 1,500 customers remain off supply this evening.
"Several roads have been closed by police for safety reasons due to the snow, making it impossible for our engineers to carry out repairs.
"Our crews are working in extremely difficult conditions and we are getting to sites and restoring as quickly as we can.
"We would like to thank people for their continued patience while we restore supplies. People can check on our website for further progress.
"The company is looking at using a helicopter to survey lines on roads which are impassable to vehicles - but again this is weather dependent."