- Red weather alert issued in England, Wales and Ireland
- Irish Taoiseach urges ‘everyone should be in home or indoors by 4pm’
- Seven-year-old girl killed after car crashes with house in Cornwall
- Dublin Bus cancels all services on Friday
- Incoming Storm Emma to bring freezing rain and ice build up
- Red alert expires in Scotland, though amber warnings remain in place
- Glasgow Airport runways closed until Friday
- Bus routes connecting Scottish cities suspended until Friday
- Motorists in Glasgow stranded overnight in cars for 13 hours
- Schools across the UK closed
- 47cm of snow reported in Carlisle
- All easyJet flights from Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports cancelled
- London Paddington Station partially closed due to weather
- RAF drafted in to help relief efforts
The severe weather warning, which stretches from north of Cardiff to south of Exeter, is for 3pm on Thursday until 2am on Friday.
But the worst of the weather could still be to come, with Storm Emma rolling in from the Atlantic and predicted to bring freezing rain and significant ice build up.
Underling the severity of the weather in the South West, a seven-year-old girl was killed after a car collided with a house in Looe, Devon and Cornwall Police said.
The Met Office red alert states: “A spell of heavy snow and blizzard conditions is expected. The snow will be accompanied by very strong easterly winds, leading to severe drifting.
“Some places could also see significant ice build up due to freezing rain from later on Thursday evening, most likely in the south of the area. Long delays and cancellations of public transport seem highly likely.
“Some roads are likely to become blocked by deep snow, stranding vehicles and passengers. Long interruptions to power supplies and other utilities are very likely to occur, along with damage to trees and other structures due to heavy snow or ice.”
Ireland and parts of Scotland were also put on red alert - the highest weather warning, though for Scotland it had expired by midday on Thursday. The Irish red alert is set to run through until 3pm on Friday.
Hundreds of drivers were stranded on the M80 in Scotland overnight for several hours while the motorway was closed southbound between junction 8 and 9. Traffic became stationary on the M80 on Wednesday afternoon when heavy snow hit.
Police said at the height of the incident there were an estimated 1,000 vehicles at a standstill, with tailbacks of approximately eight miles (13km) both north and southbound.
Motorists reported being stuck for up to 13 hours, with some spending the night in their cars, and others abandoning their vehicles on the motorway.
Bus routes connecting Scotland’s cities have been suspended until Friday due to the extreme weather.
In Cornwall, the police said a Nissan car collided with a house on Bodrigan Road in Looe, and a seven-year-old girl, believed to be a pedestrian, was killed.
Meanwhile a 75-year-old woman was found dead in a snow-covered street in Leeds on Thursday morning. Officers said the woman’s body was found partially under a car in Well Street, Farsley, after police were called at 6.11am.
Detective Inspector James Entwistle, said: “We are currently carrying out inquiries into the circumstances, but at this stage there is nothing to suggest her death is suspicious. We have established the woman’s identity and are in contact with her family.
“We would like to hear from anyone who saw her in the area at any time prior to her being found this morning. She may have appeared confused.”
The Royal Air Force (RAF) has been drafted in to help relief efforts in snow-hit Lincolnshire, with 10 4×4 vehicles and some 20 staff aiding emergency services.
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “The RAF is assisting in helping to transport health staff to hospitals and support health workers in visiting vulnerable people in the community in Lincolnshire following heavy snowfall. There are three UK standby battalions held at high readiness to respond to UK contingencies and emergencies, including support to local authorities. We have the right people with the right training to respond to a range of contingencies.”
Forecasters in Ireland had put the entire country on red alert, warning of blizzards, severe thunderstorms and coastal flooding.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar was briefed on the emergency planning and weather forecasts in Dublin and issued a direct plea. “The risk to life and limb presented by severe weather conditions should not be underestimated by anyone,” he said.
The forecast is for blizzards, 100km/h winds, zero visibility, deep pockets of snow and “white-outs”, the Taoiseach said. “It’s not safe to be outside in such conditions. No-one should be on the roads,” he said.
“We are asking everyone to be at home and safe by 4pm today and to remain indoors until the severe weather has passed. I’ll repeat nobody should be on the roads after 4pm today and everyone should be in home or indoors by 4pm.”
With Ireland’s National Emergency Co-ordination Group meeting in advance of the worst of the weather, Dublin Bus said it was cancelling all its services on Friday.
Transport Minister Shane Ross offered unambiguous advice on travelling later this afternoon: “Don’t do it. The major networks have been treated and well treated up to now but in terms of 4pm onwards, don’t do it.”
Several road closures are in force across the UK, while trains and flights have also been hit by delays and cancellations.
But despite the hardship, the severe weather did bring with it some heartening acts of kindness.
In a post shared on social media, a passenger showed a man handing out water and snacks to people stranded on a bus on the motorway for three and a half hours in the snow.
NHS workers have also been praised for their efforts to reach patients including staying overnight at hospitals to cover shifts for colleagues unable to reach work and walking for hours to reach those in need.
Lincolnshire Police warned overnight that the A52 in Lincolnshire had become “impassable” between Boston and Skegness due to drifting snow, and warned that drivers faced becoming stranded.
“We are not in a position to recover you”, the force tweeted.
By the afternoon the force reported that the B1195 from Winceby to Spilsby was also impassable, adding that local farmers were out trying to clear the snow with heavy equipment. The A153 is also closed.
One person has been taken to hospital after a crash involving 16 vehicles on the M66 southbound between the Ramsbottom and Bury junction. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) said two fire engines and an off-road vehicle were sent to the scene at 11.25am.
GMFRS added: “On arrival, firefighters found the crash was involving 16 vehicles. Nobody was trapped in any of the vehicles, although paramedics have helped two people that remained in their cars with one since being taken to hospital.
“A bus is currently being used to provide shelter and care for people unable to remain in their cars. Some are being cared for by paramedics.
“The area is very busy as the road has had to be closed in both directions. Please avoid it if possible.
The A66 in Cumbria was closed in both directions between Scotch Corner and Brough, due to “severe snowfall”, while the A56 in Lancashire was likely to be closed for “several hours” due to a lorry crash between the M65 and A680.
Northumbria Police announced a 12 vehicle crash on the A19 southbound between Moor Farm roundabout and the A1056 Killingworth Way junction at the Annitsford Road overpass was being attended by the force but reported no injuries. Numerous live-time road closures are being highlighted on its official twitter account.
In Derbyshire, the Woodhead Pass was shut in both directions between Tintwistle and Flouch.
Nearly all train operators across the UK are warning of cancellations and disruption on Thursday. Paddington Station is partially closed due to weather conditions.
Virgin Trains East Coast warned that anyone travelling north of Newcastle should defer their journey, and that there would be a number of alterations to its services. Meanwhile trains are not running between Carlisle and Scotland for the rest of the day, Virgin Trains announced.
TfL Rail also cancelled or amended some services.
Northern said the severe weather had left several routes blocked, with delays and cancellations across the whole network.
East Midlands Trains also reported several alterations and cancellations and advised customers not to travel on Thursday, as did Greater Anglia.
Scottish airports have been hit by the heavy snow, with the runways at Glasgow Airport closed until Friday.
Edinburgh Airport tweeted that most airlines had cancelled services until lunchtime. The airport itself announced it would close at 6pm in order to prepare for Friday. Hoteliers and hostels in the area are working together to provide accommodation for those left stranded by the decision. Meanwhile easyJet cancelled all flights to and from Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports.
In England, Gatwick Airport said it was expecting a “large number” of cancellations and delays, while Heathrow urged passengers to check with their airline before travelling.
The runway at East Midlands Airport was temporarily closed on Thursday morning, and travellers were warned it could affect flights.
All schools and colleges in the Republic of Ireland will be closed on Thursday and Friday, the Education Minister has said.
Richard Bruton wrote on Twitter: “Status red has now been issued for all counties with immediate effect.
“All schools, third level institutions and colleges of further education will be closed tomorrow and Friday #stormemma.”
Plymouth Council said more than 80 schools would be closed on Thursday, with more than 50 in Newcastle and 103 across Devon remaining shut.
Hundreds of schools were closed for a second day on Thursday as the severe weather continues with Glasgow, East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh, West Dunbartonshire, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Falkirk, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire and Clackmannanshire announcing that all their schools would be shut.
Community centres and libraries in Edinburgh will also be closed, the city’s local authority said.