Britons set for brief respite from big freeze

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The Independent Online

Britain could be set for a temporary reprieve from the dismal weather that has blighted the start of 2010 - with forecasters predicting rising temperatures and sunshine tomorrow.

But it looks like being a short-lived respite for some areas as more snow could be on the way within days.

Milder weather and widespread rain have thawed much of the snow which fell earlier this week and tomorrow is expected to be a couple of degrees warmer than today.

Paul Mott, a meteorologist with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "Temperatures have risen today, compared to recent days, and tomorrow should be a fine day over much of the UK, with some sunshine in many areas."

He said temperatures would be highest in the west and south west regions of the UK, with the temperature in London expected to reach around 9C, compared with a high of 7C today.

But the long-awaited thaw could be in vain, as the mercury is expected to plummet early next week and more snow could be on its way.

Mr Mott said: "It looks like it will turn colder in the mid-part of the week and there is a risk of some wet snow looking ahead to Tuesday night and Wednesday.

"There is rain coming from the west and we are expecting that to be preceded by snow in central England and north Wales."

He also warned that despite the daylight hours getting warmer the nights remain cold and frosty, creating hazardous conditions for motorists.

"Although the days are getting milder the nights are still cold and there will certainly be a risk of some ice," he said.

Localised flooding has blighted parts of the UK today leading to a number of road closures in Scotland, which was also hit by snow and high winds this morning.

There were five flood warnings in place across Scotland, and 15 areas were under flood watch.

In the Strathclyde area the A76 was closed between Cumnock and New Cumnock due to flooding while the M74 was shut in both directions between J11 (Poneil) and J14 (Crawford).

The ski range in Glencoe was also shut due to high winds.

At the other end of the country, a Premier League football match between Portsmouth FC and Birmingham City FC was postponed after the pitch at Portsmouth's Fratton Park ground became waterlogged.

Weather experts said localised flooding was caused by a combination of factors. In some areas the ground remains frozen beneath the surface, meaning excess water will run into rivers instead of being absorbed by the soil.

The situation has been compounded by the rainfall, which was heaviest in eastern England and Scotland.

Throughout central England the thaw caused hundreds of water pipes to burst and leak.

Severn Trent Water, which provides water to a huge swathe of England and parts of Wales, said it had drafted in extra staff as frozen pipes began to thaw.

Fraser Pithie, senior operations manager at the company, said: "We've brought in extra staff at our Leicester customer service centre to deal with the reports.

"We're working around the clock to respond as quickly as possible to all the calls we're getting, and carry out any repairs needed on our water mains."

He said the firm had been called out to more than 470 bursts since Monday and call centre staff had taken more than 10,000 calls.

Severn Trent Water serves more than eight million customers, stretching from the Bristol Channel to the Humber, and from mid-Wales to the East Midlands.

In London, police were still waiting on the results of a post-mortem examination to establish the cause of death of a woman whose body was found on Friday next to a pond in the capital's Kensington Gardens. She has not yet been named.

Reports speculated that she froze to death after falling in the pond before pulling herself out.

Police say they are treating her death as "unexplained".