WINTER returned with a vengeance yesterday as waves battered the North-East coast and high winds scoured the region.

As temperatures plummeted, people living in Whitby, North Yorkshire, were confronted with clouds of foam brought in by huge waves.

One resident said: "We are a foot deep in the stuff. It's amazing. We've never seen anything like it. The foam has blown into the town and the streets are full."

At first weather experts were baffled by the phenomenon and thought a chemical leak must have been churned up by the seas to create the foam.

Their fears were dismissed by harbour staff, who said the foam was caused by salt spray being whipped up by the motion of the waves.

But one oceanography expert has claimed it was a combination of the weather and a plankton-like creature that produces high levels of organic material, which gets emulsified.

Forecasters are predicting worse to come, with snow showers expected today. A spokes-man for the Press Association Weather Centre said the region would be cold and windy, while snow showers on the coastal plains could sweep inland.

* A man died yesterday when a tree fell in strong winds and crushed his car in Barnet, north London.

Two crewmen died and one was seriously injured on a tanker off the west coast of Ireland. A 28-year-old fisherman died at sea 40 miles north-west of the Butt of Lewis, Scotland.