Thousands of households were left without power as heavy snow swept the UK and brought parts of the country slipping and sliding to a halt.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled at Britain's busiest airport while train companies axed rail services and roads were closed.

Motorists were urged to avoid all but essential journeys amid strong winds, plunging temperatures and blizzards which sent several cars spinning into ditches.

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A plane sits on the runway at Heathrow airport, as snow shut roads and disrupted train travel today across the UK.

The arctic blasts forced nearly 2,000 schools to shut their doors, meaning some sixth-form and college students had their A-level exams postponed.

The weather meant good news for thousands of school-children, who escaped the classroom to enjoy the snow.

But the weather heaped misery on more than 10,000 households in South Wales, where residents found themselves with no power this morning.

Western Power said it was working to resolve the problem and later restored electricity in half of the homes affected.

It came after the Met Office issued a "red" severe weather warning for heavy snow in Wales, which experienced the worst of the snow, with some 25cm falling at Sennybridge, in Powys.

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A cyclist decides it is safer to walk as he walks through snow and ice in Bristol

The forecast led hundreds of people to rush to the shops to stock up on provisions amid fears they would be snowed in.

Frantic scenes of panic-buying were later reported in stores across the West Country, Home Counties and south Wales as stores ran low on stock.

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Meanwhile several airports were forced to ground flights or close following thick snow flurries and near galeforce winds of 30mph.

A spokesman for Heathrow - which shut both runways for periods during the day to clear snow - said 369 flights were cancelled.

Bristol and Birmingham airports closed for a time while Southampton stayed shut for most of the day.

Rail travellers also experienced upheaval as operators scrapped services.

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Commuters struggle to get home at London Bridge

Eurostar axed trains between London and Brussels while South West Trains announced cancellations. The East Midlands, Greater Anglia and Southern companies ran amended timetables.

Poor conditions - which saw between 5cm and 10cm of snow settle across much of the country - also caused severe hold-ups and several prangs on the roads.

Cardiff city centre became a sludgy bumper-to-bumper convoy of commuters this morning as some braved the conditions, while other usually busy routes were empty of cars.

By the end of the day, the AA expected to have attended around 11,000 call-outs, compared with around 9,500 on an average Friday.

It said the busiest areas were the south coast, parts of south west England, the Midlands and London.

Darron Burness, the AA's head of special operations, said: "There's been a big impact on the roads as the snow fell so heavily with traffic crawling on many routes and we've had reports of journeys taking three or four times longer than usual.

"With the snow compacting down and turning icy, we're likely to see treacherous driving conditions this evening and throughout the weekend. Any fresh snow on top will just add to the problems."

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Shoppers walk in the high street after heavy snowfall in Guisborough

The Met Office - which issued Amber alerts for the Midlands, London and the South, the east of England, the South West, the North West and Northern Ireland - warned snow and ice could continue to wreak havoc.

Frank Saunders, Met Office chief forecaster, said: "Although some further slight snowfalls are likely, with 1cm to 2cm of fresh snow in a few places, the focus switches to ice, with temperatures staying below zero over snow cover for many areas.

"The public should be aware of the risk of localised disruption to transport during this spell of wintry weather."

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  • Winter weather Jan 25

    A man uses a tractor as he tries to try and keep the roads open in Tanfield, Durham as more snows falls in the UK.

  • Winter weather Jan 25

    A woman digs her way out after more snow falls today in Tanfield County, Durham.

  • Winter weather Jan 25

    A woman digs her way out after more snow falls today in Tanfield County, Durham.

  • Winter weather Jan 25

    A man uses a tractor as he tries to try and keep the roads open in Tanfield, Durham as more snows falls in the UK.

  • Winter weather Jan 25

    A woman digs her way out after more snow falls today in Tanfield County, Durham.

  • Winter weather Jan 25

    A woman digs her way out after more snow falls today in Tanfield County, Durham.

  • Winter weather Jan 25

    Two woman battle through the snow after more snow falls today in Tanfield County Durham.

  • Winter weather Jan 25

    A man shovels snow after more snow falls today in Tanfield County Durham.

  • Winter weather Jan 25

    A woman digs her way out after more snow falls today in Tanfield County, Durham.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    A man struggles in the snow as he walks past the starters box on the PGA Centenary Course after more snowfall today at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire. The course will be used for the 2014 Ryder Cup.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    A road traffic sign covered in snow and ice at Spring Cottage, Derbyshire as the winter weather continues across the UK.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    People struggle in the snow with shovels on a golf course at Gleneagles after more snowfall today in Perthshire.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    A man struggles in the snow as he walks past the starters box on the PGA Centenary Course after more snowfall today at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire. The course will be used for the 2014 Ryder Cup.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    A man walks his dog near Auchterarder, Perthshire after heavy snowfall overnight.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    Loggers Trucks collect trees in Kielder Forest, Northumberland where snow fell overnight.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    Snow and ice cover barges and boats at Foxton Locks in Market Harborough, Leicestershire as the winter weather continues across the UK

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    General view of a street in Pricetown, Dartmoor, as snow starts to fall again.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    Don Clegg, 80, clears snow from his drive in Kielder, Northumberland as the winter weather continues across the UK.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    Loggers Trucks battle up the hill in Kielder Forest, Northumberland where snow fell overnight.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    A man fits snow chains to his car in preparation for driving in hazardous conditions as the winter weather continues across the UK.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    Don Clegg, 80, in his garden in Kielder, Northumberland as the winter weather continues across the UK.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    Loggers Trucks collect trees in Kielder Forest, Northumberland where snow fell overnight.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    Loggers Trucks collect trees in Kielder Forest, Northumberland where snow fell overnight.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    Mum Stephanie Koch (right) and daughter Kadie 4 enjoy the snow in Kielder, Northumberland as the winter weather continues across the UK.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    Dogs walking in Innerleithen, the Scottish Borders as snow showers hit the East of Scotland.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    A car sets off down a snow covered road in the Borders as snow showers hit the East of Scotland.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    A snow covered road in Galashiels the Scottish Borders as snow showers hit the East of Scotland.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    A horse runs along a snow covered field in the Borders as snow showers hit the East of Scotland.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    Sheep look for food in the Scottish Borders as snow showers hit the East of Scotland.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    A snow covered road in Galashiels the Scottish Borders as snow showers hit the East of Scotland.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    A car sets off down a snow covered road in the Borders as snow showers hit the East of Scotland.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    Mum Stephanie Koch (right) and daughter Kadie 4 enjoy the snow in Kielder, Northumberland as the winter weather continues across the UK.

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    Snow and ice cover Foxton Locks in Market Harborough, Leicestershire as the winter weather continues across the UK

  • Winter weather - Jan 22nd

    Snow and ice cover Foxton Locks in Market Harborough, Leicestershire as the winter weather continues across the UK

  • BRITAIN-WEATHER-SNOW

    A woman walks a dog through a snow covered Rose Garden at The Arno in Birkenhead, northwest England, on January 21, 2013. Britain is braced for a continuation of the bad weather which has left closed schools and caused transport chaos in recent days, with several weather warnings in place. AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Heavy Snow Fall

    NOTTINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 21: Freddy the Boston Terrier plays in the snow on January 21, 2013 in Nottingham, United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has suffered a weekend of heavy snowfall with many transport routes affected. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Heavy Snow Fall

    NOTTINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 21: Canada Geese fly from the snow covered banks of the River Trent on January 21, 2013 in Nottingham, United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has suffered a weekend of heavy snowfall with many transport routes affected. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Heavy Snow Fall

    NOTTINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 21: Wild birds feed on the snow covered banks of the River Trent on January 21, 2013 in Nottingham, United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has suffered a weekend of heavy snowfall with many transport routes affected. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Heavy Snow Fall

    LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 21: A snowman complete with cigarette and coffee cup is viewed by a squirrel in St James's Park on January 21, 2013 in London, England. The United Kingdom has suffered a weekend of heavy snowfall with many transport routes affected. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Heavy Snow Fall

    NOTTINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 21: Canada Geese fly from the snow covered banks of the River Trent on January 21, 2013 in Nottingham, United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has suffered a weekend of heavy snowfall with many transport routes affected. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Heavy Snow Fall

    LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 21: A woman walks on Birdcage Walk as snow falls on January 21, 2013 in London, England. The United Kingdom has suffered a weekend of heavy snowfall with many transport routes affected. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-WEATHER-SNOW

    Models pose around a plastic palm tree in the snow in front of Tower Bridge in central London on January 21, 2013, during a 'pop-up beach resort' promotion on the day that many consider to be the most depressing day of the year. Britain is braced for a continuation of the bad weather which has schools closed and caused transport chaos in recent days, with several weather warnings in place. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-WEATHER-SNOW

    A woman walks a dog through a snow covered Rose Garden at The Arno in Birkenhead, northwest England, on January 21, 2013. Britain is braced for a continuation of the bad weather which has left closed schools and caused transport chaos in recent days, with several weather warnings in place. AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-WEATHER-SNOW

    People walk a dog through a snow covered Arrowe Park in Birkenhead, northwest England, on January 21, 2013. Britain is braced for a continuation of the bad weather which has left closed schools and caused transport chaos in recent days, with several weather warnings in place. AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-WEATHER-SNOW

    A woman walks a dog through a snow covered Rose Garden at The Arno in Birkenhead, northwest England, on January 21, 2013. Britain is braced for a continuation of the bad weather which has left closed schools and caused transport chaos in recent days, with several weather warnings in place. AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Heavy Snow Fall

    NOTTINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 21: Canada Geese fly past the snow covered banks of the River Trent on January 21, 2013 in Nottingham, United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has suffered a weekend of heavy snowfall with many transport routes affected. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Heavy Snow Fall

    LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 21: A man walks on The Blue Bridge over the partially frozen lake in St James's Park on January 21, 2013 in London, England. The United Kingdom has suffered a weekend of heavy snowfall with many transport routes affected. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-WEATHER-SNOW

    People walk a dog through a snow covered Arrowe Park in Birkenhead, northwest England, on January 21, 2013. Britain is braced for a continuation of the bad weather which has left closed schools and caused transport chaos in recent days, with several weather warnings in place. AFP PHOTO / PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

  • BRITAIN-WEATHER-SNOW

    Models in swimwear pose in the snow at a 'pop-up beach resort' promotion in front of Tower Bridge in central London on January 21, 2013. Britain is braced for a continuation of the bad weather which has schools closed and caused transport chaos in recent days, with several weather warnings in place. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Heavy Snow Fall

    LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 21: Pigeons look for food in a snowy St James's Park on January 21, 2013 in London, England. The United Kingdom has suffered a weekend of heavy snowfall with many transport routes affected. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

  • UK Hit By Heavy Snow Fall

    LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 21: Pigeons try to keep out of the snow by resting on a signpost in St James's Park on January 21, 2013 in London, England. The United Kingdom has suffered a weekend of heavy snowfall with many transport routes affected. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)