5 of the worst storms to hit the United Kingdom during Christmas

By Jordan Root, AccuWeather meteorologist
December 14, 2016, 1:40:52 PM EST

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Millions across the United Kingdom worry about weather conditions for holiday travel and activities as Christmas approaches.

From heavy snow to surging warmth, some years stand out as having memorable weather for the holiday.

Some years could be classified as a widespread white Christmas (snow covering at least 40 percent of the country) while other years were only a white Christmas (a snowflake was observed falling across the country).

There have been years that have been exceptionally mild. Christmas of 2015 went down as one of the warmest, if not the warmest, Dec. 25 on record for parts of the U.K.

Here are five of the most notable weather events around Christmas in the United Kingdom.

1836: Lewes Avalanche

December 1836 was notably harsh across the United Kingdom with frequent heavy snow events and brutal cold. Both of these factors and gale-force winds led to a deadly avalanche in the town of Lewes located near the south coast of England.

While the actual avalanche occurred on Dec. 27 that year, weather conditions leading up to that day contributed to the deadly event. Heavy snow and wind on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day created large snow drifts up to 3 meters (10 feet high) in Lewes.

Nearby hills in the town, in particular Cliffe Hill, had deep layers of snow, some of which were overhanging causing concern for those living in houses down below. While these people were alerted about the danger, many refused to leave.

Lewes Avalanche

Cliffe Hill in Lewes as seen from South Street. (Image/Google).


On Dec. 27, snow crashed down on a row of houses in Lewes, killing eight people. This continues to stand as the deadliest avalanche to occur across the U.K.

1927: Heavy snow causes rail chaos

Intense winds and snow caused rail and road delays during a storm that lasted the week leading up to Christmas in 1927.

Snow began to fall on Christmas in the Midlands, and rain changed to snow later in the day across Southern England, falling heavily for a period.

According to a monthly weather report of the Meteorological Office, the combination of wind and snow caused severe drifting and serious interruption of rail and road communication. Some roads were completely blocked by snow drifts. The snow clung to wires and trees and was responsible for communication outages and broken tree limbs.

The average snow depth across higher ground exceeded 30 cm (12 inches) with lesser amounts closer to the coast. A large amount of this snow would melt in early January and in combination with heavy rain would lead to the deadly 1928 Thames flood.

1997: Severe gales strike on Christmas Eve

Severe gales pounded Wales, Northern Ireland and Northern England on Christmas Eve in 1997, causing extensive damage and killing 10.

A wind gust of 179 kph (111 mph) was reported at the Lleyn Peninsula. Other areas experienced winds up to 121 kph (75 mph). The strong winds caused structural damage and power cuts to tens of thousands during the holiday.

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According to UPI.com, one person died when a dance hall collapsed. Several other deaths were caused by falling trees. The Coast Guard was also activated in search for a French fishing boat on Dec. 24 after the boat was thought to have capsized due to giant waves.

2010: The last widespread white Christmas

December 2010 was a brutal month in terms of weather with extreme cold and frequent heavy snow. This month ended up being the coldest December in the U.K. since U.K. Met Office records began in 1910.

Several snow events buried Scotland, Wales and England in snow through the middle of the month. On Dec. 18, a band of snow brought up to 15 cm (6 inches) of fresh snow to the West Midlands, affecting Christmas shopping and travel. Snow also fell in London forcing airport runways to close and leaving travelers stranded.

Scotland Snow 2010

A quad bike and a sledge are used for enjoyment by youngsters on a snow covered field in Laurencekirk, South Aberdeenshire, Scotland Wednesday Dec. 22, 2010. Most parts of Britain are covered by heavy snow falls and icy conditions. (AP Photo/Martin Cleaver)


Another round of heavy snow buried Northern Ireland and Scotland on Christmas Eve and extended through Christmas Day across Scotland.

The highest temperatures on Christmas Day in London and Glasgow were 0 C (32 F) and -7 C (19 F) respectively.

The combination of the heavy snow and prolonged cold provided the U.K. with a widespread white Christmas.

2013: Heavy rain leads to flooding on Christmas

Christmas of 2013 and the days leading up to it turned out to be quite wet with rounds of heavy rain across Central and Southern England.

A deep depression passed near the Western Isles between Dec. 23 and Dec. 24 and brought heavy rain and severe gales to the U.K.

The high ground of southern England received the heaviest rain. At Gatwick Airport, 58 mm (2.30 inches) of rain fell on Dec. 23. A total of 157 mm (6.18 inches) of rain fell between Dec. 21 and Dec. 25. To put that in perspective, normal precipitation for the month of December is 73 mm (2.89 inches).

United Kingdom Flooding December 2013

A car tries to drive past a van and a car through a flooded road near Reigate, England, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. A severe winter storm has caused major travel problems in Britain. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)


The heavy rain caused several rivers to burst their banks, including River Mole in Surrey. According to the BBC, the coastguard conducted water rescues in Yalding where 76 people were stuck in a flooded caravan park on Christmas Eve.

According to the U.K. Met Office, wind gusts exceeded 60 mph across parts of central and southern England and as high as 82 mph across Scotland. Power cuts to at least 10,000 homes affected the region through Christmas.

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