Relentless Snow Causes Travel Chaos

Heavy snow caused havoc across Britain on Thursday, keeping airports closed for a second day, leaving travelers stranded and forcing thousands of schools to close.

Met Office forecasters warned of severe weather and heavy snow, particularly in southern and eastern regions, as Britain's worst early winter weather in almost two decades showed no sign of easing its icy grip.

Days of sub-zero temperatures and snow have caused chaos and could be costing the economy 1.2 billion pounds a day, according to insurer RSA Britain's biggest retailers have also warned the weather was affecting sales.

The Prime Minister's spokesman rejected criticism that the authorities have been caught napping.

""Our view is that we are much better prepared than we were last year,"" he told reporters. ""There is always going to be some disruption when you have an extended period of cold weather.""

But hundreds of travelers spent the night sleeping in their vehicles or in airport lounges. Gatwick, the country's second busiest airport, said it would remain closed until at least 6 a.m. on Friday because of more heavy snowfalls.

Edinburgh airport said it hoped to reopen at 4 p.m. on Thursday, while London's smaller City Airport said it would stay closed until 2 p.m.

""Everyone's feeling really flat now -- the cold and tiredness is hitting us and it's really very grim,"" 43-year-old Karyn Taylor, who hoping to catch a flight to Lapland with her husband and three children, told Reuters via telephone."