Britain is facing a fortnight of snow and ice chaos in the run-up to Christmas as temperature lows of -12C (10F) are forecast tomorrow night – as cold as the North Pole.
Two inches of snow is expected to fall on the South East tomorrow, with further flurries across the country through the week. There are due to be daytime highs of just 1C (34F) to 3C (37F) for many, and nights plunging as cold as -12C in England and -15C (5F) in Scotland.
This morning saw a low of -8.6C (17F) near Bournemouth, Dorset. And the cold snap could last for 30 days – well beyond the festive period.
Snow fell and settled today in Devon, Wales, areas of North West England and parts of Scotland. Manchester Airport temporarily shut both runways, disrupting 20 flights.
Britain is facing a fortnight of snow and ice mayhem in the run-up to Christmas, as temperature lows of -12C (10F) are forecast tomorrow night – as cold as the North Pole. Pictured: Snow falling at St Mary’s Church in the village of Brompton Regis today
Manchester Airport temporarily shut both runways, disrupting 20 flights due to snowy weather
Gatwick, Heathrow and Southend airports put hundreds of snow ploughs on standby.
Heathrow, which saw 50,000 passengers stranded when 400 flights were cancelled in December 2017, put 500 snow-clearing staff and 185 snow ploughs on duty. Gatwick has 186 staff and 98 snow ploughs and blowers ready.
The icy conditions caused road accidents across the North West on the M58, M62 and M61, police said. Travel disruption across the UK is feared on Monday morning as commuters navigate icy roads. Some 30,000 UK breakdowns are predicted, the highest for a year.
But it isn’t all bad news. Children were out building snowmen, dog walkers enjoyed strolling in frosty woodlands and landscapes across the country were transformed into snowy Christmas scenes.
The Santa Express was running through the snow on the Strathspey Steam railway line today
Families are now facing landmark £100-a-week energy bills, having been forced to turn up the heating since the mercury first dropped last Monday. Some £2.8 billion is due to be spent this week on energy bills across Britain’s 28 million households as winter bites – close to double the amount paid in cold weeks last winter.
The risk of blackouts increases in cold snaps as demand from the National Grid rises, and the chances of damage to power lines increase. People without central heating use electricity to heat their homes. And, generally, families spend more time at home, making greater use of TVs and other gadgets, kitchen appliances and lighting.
Those with gas will see their boilers under extra pressure as they heat mains water from near freezing. Boilers must also be on longer to keep homes warm. Heavy use means they are more likely to break down and pipes are at risk of freezing and bursting.
A family from Bridgewater enjoyed a stroll up Cothelston Hill on the Quantocks Hills in Somerset this morning
Northern England and Scotland are due a worse-than-normal 25 to 30 more days of snow or ice travel disruption this winter, with 20 to 25 days of impact in the South, said The Weather Company, the world’s biggest commercial forecaster.
A freeze for up to ten days ahead is expected for the whole country, with the North at risk for up to 15 days. Leon Brown, head of meteorological operations at The Weather Company’s Weather Channel arm, said: ‘More snow and ice than average are expected this winter because of the cold Arctic pattern setting up so early in December. Northern England and Scotland are forecast 25 to 30 further days with snow or ice causing disruption.
‘Cold polar air is covering the entire country already, and the South is far more at risk of snow as it will be the battleground for moist milder air returning, which can see snow. Temperatures of -11C [12F] or -12C [10F] are a good bet for coming nights in the South, with -14C [7F] or -15C [5F] in Scotland where there is snow on the ground. -9C [16F] has been seen already in England already, even without snow.’
Children built a snowman after the first significant snow fall in Cheshire today
That’s as cold as the world’s most northerly town, Longyearbyen, 500 miles from the North Pole.
Winter in Britain will be so cold that grit will not work. The Government, the AA and councils say road salt is much less effective at -5C (23F).
Tyre pressure also drops as the temperature drops, affecting driving safety and fuel efficiency.
Typically, every 10C drop causes pressure to fall by two pounds per square inch (PSI). If tyres were last checked in the autumn when it was 25C (77F), and it falls to -5C (23F), that is a 6 PSI difference. That would use up to five per cent more fuel.
Today, a snow and ice warning begins at 9am for most of London and some of the South East for 24 hours, with a 30 per cent chance of up to 5cm of snow.
Schools were closed in parts of Scotland at the end of last week, and the same could happen in England and Wales this week.
The Met Office also warns that the cold spell could last well into January. Met Office forecaster Steve Willington said: ‘It is staying cold, with daytime temperatures only a few degrees above freezing in many places and overnight temperatures dropping to -10C [14F] or lower in isolated spots.’
This is Britain’s worst cold spell since 2018’s Beast from the East.
Night temperatures are the coldest since a shorter cold period in February last year, which saw -23C (-9F), in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, the UK’s coldest temperature since 1995.