The freak late April snowstorm that took everyone by surprise in the ’80s

Blizzards – they just do not happen in Spring, right? That’s what everyone was thinking as they woke up to a blanket of the white stuff nearly 41 years ago.

Spring is supposed to be the promise of good weather and good times to follow. The sunsets get later and later, and we anticipate our few golden weeks in the Summer.

That assumption was dismissed in dramatic fashion by the Great British weather on April 23, 1981. Clouds unceremoniously dumped up to 20 feet of snow on the UK over the course of a bitterly cold week.

SEE MORE:The ‘Big Freeze’ of 1963 in Birmingham – frozen flats, electric bar heaters and no football

Slush and ice quickly smothered the roads, causing no end of trouble to unprepared drivers. The sight of families giving their Cortinas or Metros a big push was a common sight that week.

We were out and about in the West Midlands that week, snapping pictures of folks battling the predictably unpredictable weather. See what we saw, four decades ago, in the gallery below.



The snowstorm did not grind everything to a halt, as you’d expect from the people of those days. A lot of elbow grease and wasted hours were needed, though!

We even snapped the milkmen, unsung heroes of past generations, sliding up and down hilly roads to get people their essentials. Nothing could stop them, not even a freezing apocalypse.

It was not all bad, of course – plenty of people broke out their sleds and went to play on the slopes. If your school had a snow day or two, you were sorted for entertainment.

The snow lasted between 3 days and a week in some parts of the country. In Birmingham, the temperature never crept higher than an icy 3 degrees for a couple of days.

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The weather quickly warmed up after the flurry, and most parts went back to normal. Spare a thought for those living near rivers though, particularly for our East Midlands neighbors, who saw flooding as the ice rapidly melted.

People did not have to wait long to break out the sleds again, though. The dark, miserable winter of ’81 / ’82 was on its way, to spawn tornadoes, then sub-zero temperatures all across the country.

What’s the coldest winter you’ve ever experienced – and how did you and your family cope? Comment below, or talk to us in our Facebook nostalgia group.

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