Up to six inches of snow fell earlier in the day in central Scotland and parts of Yorkshire, while ice and snow made roads treacherous in Kent. Parts of the M42 near Birmingham were down to one lane. There was a 17-vehicle pile-up between junctions six and seven, leaving seven people with minor injuries.
In the city centre, streets packed with shoppers the previous day were almost empty and roads were deserted. The city council had not sent out gritters because rising temperatures had been forecast. Birmingham Weather Centre blamed a subtle change in wind direction. 'We were expecting snow and sent out warnings but we thought it would turn to sleet overnight.'
Holidaymakers seeking winter sun abroad found Leeds-Bradford airport closed and flights into Birmingham International were halted for several hours.
In West Yorkshire, police said roads were atrocious, but by evening rain had turned snow to slush. There were traffic problems in Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Scotland.
The AA and RAC had thousands of calls as people tried to start cars left idle over Christmas. In one hour, 2,600 motorists contacted the RAC, mostly over flat batteries.
Forecast, page 2
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