11/02/2012 07:23 GMT

UK Weather: Britain Has Coldest Winter Night So Far

Britain has endured its coldest night of the winter so far with temperatures plummeting close to -18C in some areas, forecasters said.

The record-breaking cold snap comes as families setting off on half-term getaways have been warned of "deceptively dangerous" road conditions.

Experts said the mercury had fallen to -17.8C in Chesham, Bucks, during the early hours and was expected to plunge even lower as the icy weather continues to grip the UK.

Claire Allen, forecaster for MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "Overnight we have had the coldest temperatures this winter so far. Most places in England and eastern areas of Wales dropped to below -4C, with -5.8C at Heathrow and -5.5C in Nottingham. Motorists are going to have to be extra cautious in areas where there is still snow remaining as it will be frozen making the roads very icy and slippery."

The Met Office said it had probably been the coldest night in England since December 2010 with temperatures widely below -10C across Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

A "yellow" severe weather warning instructing people to "be aware" of ice on roads has been issued by the national weather service across the whole of England and parts of Wales. A level three cold weather alert is also in place.

Ms Allen said the bitter temperatures would continue with London, south-eastern areas and the Midlands struggling to get above freezing. Most areas should be dry and sunny, but cloud, rain and freezing drizzle could hit western parts of Britain, she added.

Scotland and Northern Ireland escaped the adverse temperatures overnight thanks to a warm front, with readings of between 5C and 10C expected today.

Saturday night is also forecast to be bitterly cold in England with temperatures in London and the Midlands falling to around -6C while milder temperatures are likely on Sunday.

With thousands of families expected to embark on half-term getaways this weekend, the AA cautioned drivers to take extra care, especially if travelling to mainland Europe, where they face the risk of "frozen" diesel. President Edmund King said: "There are still treacherous conditions on many local roads around the country. We found that even on local roads that had been gritted, the rain washed off the grit and turned to sheet ice."

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