Snow Across Britain Affects Travel With More Bad Weather Forecast
Much of Britain woke up to snow on Sunday after the first widespread big freeze of the winter brought dumps of up to 16cm, grounded planes and raised fears of transport chaos.
With most of the UK on amber alert, the Met Office's second highest Cold Weather Alert, flights were cancelled and a string of sporting fixtures fell victim to the big chill.
Flurries fell over Scotland, northern England and the Midlands yesterday before moving down to London and East Anglia.
Church Fenton in North Yorkshire recorded 16cm of snow, while up to 15cm was forecast for parts of Cumbria, Lincolnshire, East Anglia, North Yorkshire, the Peak District and the Midlands.
Most parts of the country are expected to wake up to between 5cm and 10cm this morning.
A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said there had been around 60 minor road collisions across the county since yesterday afternoon as a result of the weather.
He said road conditions were still "somewhat treacherous" but were beginning to improve.
The dangerous conditions on the roads were graphically illustrated at Crowborough in East Sussex, where a lorry jack-knifed, blocking the A26.
The Highways Agency said that overnight snow had cleared, but freezing temperatures remained in some areas.
A spokeswoman said: "Our winter fleet is out spreading salt and ploughing lying snow, and we are working around the clock to keep the motorways and other strategic roads in England open.
"Drivers are advised to pay particular care at locations where local conditions such as slopes, bends or overhanging trees could create an increased risk of slippery road conditions.
"It is still necessary to drive with care, even after road surfaces have been treated with salt."
The A169 between Pickering and Whitby was closed for a short time yesterday as drivers had difficulty in the snow but the police spokesman said there were "no major issues with drivers being stuck".
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said a crew returning to their base at Robin Hood's Bay yesterday afternoon had helped several motorists who had become stuck in "severe" snow drifts.
A message on Leeds Bradford Airport's website this morning said the airport was open.
But it warned people to check with their airline or tour operator before travelling and allow extra time for their journeys.
The message read: "Leeds Bradford Airport is open. However adverse weather conditions are currently being experienced and may cause some disruption to flight schedules."
A thick covering is also expected to fall on Heathrow Airport where a third of today's flights have been axed amid adverse weather conditions and the possibility of freezing fog.
Passengers travelling through Gatwick were warned to expect some disruption and delays, with cancellations remaining a possibility.
Stansted, Birmingham and Luton airports were forced to suspend operations last night as snow piled up on the runways.
A spokeswoman for Birmingham Airport said six flights were cancelled and 11 were diverted other other airports, including Manchester, Glasgow, Luton and Stansted.
Airport staff had hoped to reopen the runway by 2am, but the spokeswoman said the heavy snow meant it was now unlikely to open until around 6am.
Passengers were advised to go to the airport's website and check with airlines to find out the status of their flights.
The runway at Stansted was shut "temporarily" for snow clearing.
A spokeswoman said flights were due to take off from the airport from 6.10am.
"At this time we're expecting normal flight operations," she added.
A spokeswoman for Luton Airport said: "Our last few departures were cancelled because we had to clear the runway, and the remaining flight arrivals were diverted."
She expected flights to depart as normal from about 6am today.
On the roads, motorists faced what the RAC described as a "dangerous cocktail of driving conditions" and were urged to stay at home where possible. Some minor routes closed altogether.
Thames Valley Police said the snow caused a traffic jam between junctions nine and four southbound on the M40 from about 9pm.
A spokesman said the backlog was beginning to clear by around 1am.
The Highways Agency extended its amber alert until 9am, meaning there was a "high probability" of severe snow and a risk of
difficult driving conditions.
Kevin Andrews, RAC patrol ambassador, said the wintry weather and sub-zero temperatures had left roads "extremely treacherous".
"It looks like we're going to get a dangerous cocktail of driving conditions this weekend," he added.
The motoring organisation said it had attended 70% more breakdowns than normal while a spokesman for the AA said it dealt with around 1,500 call-outs per hour this morning.
The total figure was predicted to reach up to 15,000 by the end of yesterday - almost double the 8,500 of a usual Saturday.
Much of the UK remains under an amber warning - the Met Office's second most serious - of icy conditions today.
The alert, which urges people to be prepared, applies to central, south-west and eastern Scotland, to Wales, and to vast swathes of England.
A yellow alert, which warns people to "be aware", was in place for the Highlands and Northern Ireland.
Much of England is also under a cold weather alert of level 3, which warns of "100% probability" of severe cold weather, icy conditions and heavy snow.
MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said the deep freeze was likely to continue into next week meaning the snow is likely to settle and much of Britain will remain carpeted in white.
"Most places will be seeing snow in the morning," forecaster Billy Payne added.
"It will be heaviest down through northern England, the Midlands, East Anglia and in the South East where there will be a deep covering.
"I wouldn't be surprised if there were problems on the transport network in the morning - it will certainly be enough to cause some problems."
While the mercury dropped to minus 12.4C in South Newington, Oxfordshire, on Friday night - the lowest recorded temperature this season - it is expected to remain considerably milder tonight with lows of minus 4C before falling again next week.
The icy spell has already seen daytime temperatures plummet four or five degrees lower than average for February - traditionally the coldest month of the year.
The Department for Transport has said it was better prepared than ever for severe winter weather.
Salt stocks across Britain stand at more than 2.4 million tonnes - a million more than last year.
But they were of little comfort to sports fans hoping to see Portsmouth's home match against Hull City which became the first Championship fixture cancelled due to a frozen pitch. The Doncaster versus Reading match was similarly postponed while a number of other lower league contests were called off.
Racing was also heavily hit but the ice did not deter swimmers who plunged into the Serpentine in London's Hyde Park this morning, despite its partially frozen waters.