The harsh winter of 1978-79
November 1978. Very warm until a northerly outbreak on the 24th. Although it was mild and dry in the south, it was wet and often stormy in the north. There was a gust of 115 mph at Fair Isle on the 14th. 1978 was the last time we saw a November providing less than 50 mm of rain.
December 1978. The start of a memorable winter: the Winter of Discontent was also often cold and snowy. The were frequent gales early in the month. On the 13th, there was a damaging hailstorm in south Devon. Some snowfalls in the week before Christmas, although Christmas itself was mild and dominated by SW winds and heavy rain. The Scandinavian blocking high was then in place at the end of the month, laying the ground work for the severe winter to come. The cold winter started on the 28th, when there was a marked contrast on the 28th: maximum of 14C in Guernsey, but beneath freezing all day in parts of Scotland. There were 255 mm of rain in 48 hours over the Mountains of Mourne in Ireland at this time. The floodwaters in northern England froze hard, and snow fell on top. A severe blizzard struck southern and eastern England on the 30-31st, with deep drifting. A true ‘Beast From The East’. New Year’s Eve was the coldest for 40 years, with local maxima of -4C.
January 1979. A very cold (-0.4C CET) and snowy month. The last really cold January (average beneath freezing). Much of the south started the month snowbound after the blizzard of December 30-31st. Stithians (Cornwall) could only manage a maximum of -4 on the 1st, after widespread severe frosts; there was even a minimum of -16C in Cornwall on the 1st, the county record for Cornwall. There were some very low maxima were widespread on the 1st, with places as far apart as Exeter and East Anglia unable to go much above -5C. For much of the month there were severe frosts and heavy snowfalls. The record low for Northern Ireland (before December 2010) was set at -17.5C at Magherally (Co. Down) on the 1st. There was heavy snowfall in the northwest and Midlands on the 2nd; a maximum of -11.5. at Burton-on-Trent on the 3rd, in freezing fog, following a minimum of -16C the night before. There was a blizzard on the Channel Islands on the 4th; Torcross (Devon) hit and damaged by very large waves that night. Dense, cold, freezing fog midmonth. It was -24.6C at Carnwath (Strathclyde) on the 13th (possibly 18th) – this was the lowest temperature in the UK in the 70s. There was then a maximum of only -7C at Abbotsinch. There was another severe snowfall on the 23rd in southern England; six inches of snow, followed by freezing rain in London. Even the Scillies had three days of laying snow. Oh for another month like it.
February 1979. There were alternating snowy and mild spells in the south. There was much snow on the 12th as fronts moved northwards into the cold block: there was 15 cm of snow by the evening in the south Pennines. Blizzards. A storm surge hit Portland Bill on the 13th, cutting off the Bill for several hours, and giant waves carrying cars from the seafront car park. The most severe weather of the whole winter struck between the 14-16th. On the 14th heavy snow and cold northeasterlies to easterlies gave blizzards in the east. At midday in Tynemouth the temperature was -3C with a wind of 50 mph. Cold, snow, wind; enormous snow drifts, low visibilities: whiteout! What fun. The 15th was particularly cold and snowy: large difts in the east, with many places cut off, particularly in Lincolnshire. Many parts of the southeast remained below freezing from the 14-20th. Many places in the east, southeast, and Midlands were cut off for several days, with power cuts (which is what I hate most about snow and wind). A cold month overall, although not extraordinarily so (1.2C CET).
March 1979. A stormy, wet month, with some heavy snow in the Midlands and North mid-month. The NE was particularly badly affected in the third week. Snowstorms cut off Newcastle: five days of snow gave 46 cm of cover. 175 mm of rain recorded in the first week at Fort William: three times the monthly average!