Wolds writer Peter Thompson takes a look back at the ‘Beast from the East’ in his monthly Wolds Diary!
Rather than the blast from the past, a motto for these diaries, last week saw the arrival of the ‘beast from the east!’
And didn’t he show his teeth and bite hard.
We have gone soft with mild winters for several years, but this was the real deal and the Wolds was amongst the areas worst hit.
Spare a moment for the few holiday makers last week at the North Pole, for on one day the maximum temperature there was 1.1C - or 34F in old money - warmer than Caistor, where for three successive days the temperature failed to climb above freezing point. Bizarre I hear you say - and you are right!
The reason was that our usual mild jet stream winter influence had been thrust hundreds of miles further north in the Atlantic while freezing polar air was shunted down across Europe and into the UK.
Don’t believe that the ‘beast’ was a once in a lifetime event.
In 1982, the lowest-ever UK temperature was recorded at Braemar in the Scottish Highlands, where the mercury nose dived to -27C.
Even whisky froze in the glass - believed to be the worst peacetime disaster north of Gretna.
There was a red alert warning last week to Scottish drinkers on Rose Street in Edinburgh, but few took heed, especially after the events at Murrayfield the previous Saturday.
Incidentally, in 1982 there were 56 successive days of snow cover in Braemar; the Queen Mother cut short her holiday at nearby Balmoral and returned to London, cancelling engagements to stay indoors. My wife always quotes her in a cold snap, but I ignore her advice at my bronchial peril.
February 1991 was another bad late winter month. There was chaos at schools, airports and on the roads - but then there always is!
Britain does not handle a cold snap well compared to Canada, Sweden or Russia, but then they are more used to it.
It was in 1991 that the then ‘British Rail’ made the excuse of the wrong type of snow for the first time.
It was the same snow that was brought in by last week’s ‘beast’. Darren Betts the BBC’s senior weatherman explained ‘on telly’ that the wrong sort of snow was unusually powdery and dry for our country and it was! He was right for once as it came off my car a treat with no ice on the windscreen first thing!
Our Darren should know a thing or two about the North Lincolnshire winter, as he attended Huntcliffe School at Kirton Lindsey. I attended prize giving there a few years ago when he returned to do the honours. He embarrassed one of his teachers by recalling that ‘sir’ had said on a report that his head was always in the clouds - little did they know!
Incidentally, when powdery snow is sucked into train engines, it short circuits them. Automatic doors jam when their rubber seals freeze together and air brakes can fail due to similar problems. All this does not quite explain though why trains were cancelled down south last week due to snow which never came!
It was good to see children out in the park in Caistor enjoying the slopes on their sledges. They have missed this over past years and as we all know childhood days pass all too quickly.
I remember when we used to collect a pile of dinner trays out of the Grammar School kitchen to use as sledges. Last week I saw a few rather more sophisticated devices on the slopes, more akin to those in South Korea for the Olympics.
Incidentally, I have never quite got into the Winter Olympics since Torvill and Dean all those years ago.
Finally, I report that my sky aerial packed up for few days last week; yes you’ve guessed it - the wrong type of Snow again!!