The winter of 1962–1963 (also known as The Big Freeze of 1963) was one of the coldest winters on record in the United Kingdom. Temperatures plummeted and lakes and rivers began to freeze over. In the Central England Temperature (CET) record, extending back to 1659, only the winter of 1683–84 has been significantly colder, with 1739–40 being slightly colder than 1962–63. However, the winter did not rank so highly in Scotland for its severity as it did in England and Wales.
A very cold easterly set in on 22nd December and parts of the South of England in particular had heavy snow late on 26th December, continuing into 27th December. On 29th and 30th December 1962, a blizzard swept across the South West of England and Wales. Snow drifted to over 20 feet deep in places, blocking roads and railways. The snow stranded villagers and brought down powerlines. The near freezing temperatures meant that the snow cover lasted for over two months in some areas. Snow lay to 6 inches depth in Manchester city centre, 9 inches in Wythenshawe, and about 18 inches at Keele University in Staffordshire.
In January 1963 the country started to freeze solid with temperatures as low as −16°C in places, and freezing fog was a hazard for most of the country. In the same month, the sea froze for 1 mile out from shore at Herne Bay, Kent, while BBC television news expressed a fear that the Strait of Dover would freeze across. The upper reaches of the River Thames also froze over, although it did not freeze in Central London, partly due to the hot effluent from two thermal power stations - Battersea and Bankside, the removal of the old multi-arched mediaeval London Bridge, which obstructed the river's free flow, and the river embankments, make the river less likely to freeze in London than in earlier times (days of the River Thames frost fairs). The ice was thick enough in some places that people were skating on it. Icicles hung from many roof gutterings; some of these were as long as a metre.
In February 1963 more snow came. It was also stormy with winds reaching Force 8 on the Beaufort scale. A 36-hour blizzard caused heavy drifting snow in most parts of the country. Drifts reached 20 feet in some areas. Gale force winds howled with wind speeds reaching up to 81 mph. On the Isle of Man, wind speeds were recorded at 119 mph.
Just like the winter of 47', the thaw set in during early March. The 6th March was the first morning of the year without any frost anywhere in Britain. The temperatures soon soared to 17°C and the remaining snow rapidly disappeared.
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