DUBLIN/EDINBURGH • Snow storms shut most of Ireland yesterday and forced Britain to call in the army to battle some of the worst weather seen in nearly 30 years.
After a blast of Siberian weather dubbed "the beast from the east", southern Britain and Ireland were battered by Storm Emma which blocked roads, grounded planes and stopped trains.
At least 24,000 homes and businesses in Ireland were left without power, as snow drifts left accumulations up to 90cm deep.
The Irish stock exchange was shut, all schools were closed and transport ground to a halt. All flights were cancelled as well, as the most severe red weather warning remained in place across much of the country. "The country needs to more or less stay in hibernation today," Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney told state broadcaster RTE.
"Hopefully we can continue to get through these freak weather conditions without tragedy."
In Britain, a seven-year-old girl was killed in Cornwall after a car crashed into a house in icy conditions, the BBC reported.
Dozens of passengers were stranded on trains overnight in southern England.
The army was called in to help rescue hundreds of drivers stuck in the snow and to transport National Health Service (NHS) workers.
I've never seen anything like this. It was like coming in from a ski resort, except nothing works.
LAWYER ROBERT COLE, who spent four hours commuting into London from south-west England on Thursday .
Roads were closed, schools shut and flights cancelled across Britain.
"The Armed Forces are assisting emergency services in ensuring essential NHS staff are able to get to work and carry out their work in local communities," a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said.
Weather conditions in Scotland, which initially bore the brunt of the Siberian cold front, improved slightly, but the authorities warned people not to travel yesterday and during the weekend. Only a handful of rail services were running in affected areas.
Around 30 vehicles were stuck on a road near Aberdeen, the local council said, with many other roads closed due to snow drifts.
A large number of flights were cancelled at Edinburgh and Glasgow airports.
"In the current bad weather, I want to say thank you to everyone going the extra mile to keep our country moving - and to keep us safe," British Prime Minister Theresa May said.
Over in Switzerland, Geneva's busy airport suspended all flights for two hours yesterday, for the second consecutive day, as snowstorms continued to lash the city.
Switzerland has seen the mercury plummet to records of up to minus 40 deg C in the ongoing blizzard, which has also affected air, road and train transport around Europe.
Northern Spain was also paralysed by snowfall, and a 65-year-old man died after slipping on snow-covered pavement, Spanish news agency Europa Press reported. Another older man was found dead in the Netherlands after falling through ice while skating, the BBC reported.
The cold spell, dubbed "the beast from the east", has been caused by a jump in temperatures high over the Arctic which has weakened the jet stream that brings warm air in from the Atlantic to Ireland and Britain.
The United States was also bracing itself for a powerful storm yesterday. Businesses in the north-eastern US blocked doors with sandbags and officials warned residents of waterfront homes to be ready to evacuate as the storm threatened to flood coasts from Maine to North Carolina.
Heavy rains, monthly extreme high tides and a wind-driven storm surge could combine to cause more than a metre of water to flow onto streets in coastal parts of Boston and up and down the shoreline, government and private weather forecasters warned.
High winds of up to 120kmh could also bring extensive power outages
"People need to take this very seriously," Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker told a Thursday press conference, telling people to prepare for a repeat of the flooding that affected much of the state's east coast during the Jan 4 "bombogenesis" winter storm.
The National Weather Service had coastal flood watches and warnings in place from southern Maine to coastal North Carolina, including New York's eastern suburbs, and also warned that a snowstorm heading east from the Ohio Valley could drop significant amounts of snow in northern New York State.