Most of Britain was smothered under a thick blanket of snow Saturday, with villages and towns cut off, roads blocked and hundreds of people stranded in their cars.

Royal Air Force helicopters joined rescue efforts for motorists trapped in cars buried in snow drifts up to eight feet deep as snow storms whipped up by high winds ripped across Scotland, Wales and northern and central England.A London Weather Centre spokesman said the cold snap had come "straight from the Arctic" with snow reaching as far south as Hampshire, southwest of London, although the capital itself received only brief flurries.