Calm before snowstorm as Big Freeze eases

Britain will enjoy some brief respite from the worst December weather in nearly 30 years today, before temperatures plunge again for the rest of the month.

After more than a week of snow, ice and transport chaos, forecasters said the UK would start to thaw, with the mercury almost reaching double figures in parts.



But bitterly cold winds are expected to return by the start of next week as bookmakers slashed the odds for a white Christmas.



Temperatures fell as low as minus 13C (14F) across northern England overnight, and there were warnings of widespread icy roads before milder winds arrived from the west.



John Hutchinson, from MeteoGroup, the weather division of Press Association, said: "What we're going to have through the next few days is the wind moving round from the Atlantic, bringing less cold air.



"As far as (today) goes, quite a lot of England and Wales will have a pretty fine day."



He said southern areas will see temperatures between 2C (35.6F) and 4C (39.2F), while across Scotland and Northern Ireland, they will be even higher, up to 9C (48.2F).



But despite the thaw conditions, forecasters warned the Arctic conditions were expected to return next week.



John Hammond from the Met Office said: "December has got off to a very cold start. The last time we saw prolonged cold weather in December with such low temperatures and this amount of snow fall was 1981.



"Next week the north easterly winds will bring in the cold weather once more with an increasing risk of snow showers, especially in northern and eastern parts of the UK.



"It's going to stay cold for much of the rest of the month with widespread risk of ice, frost and snow showers."



Yesterday the UK remained in the grip of freezing conditions.



In Carlisle, temperatures barely moved above minus 8C (17.6F) all day, with the lowest temperature recorded at minus 7.9C (17.8F).



Most parts of the country saw the mercury reach between minus 2C (28.4F) and 2C (35.6F), while the warmest area was Cromer in Norfolk, where temperatures reached 5.8C (42.4F).



Roads in worst-hit Scotland have been getting back to normal, with the Army drafted in to help Edinburgh Council clear roads in the city.



The M8, which links Edinburgh and Glasgow, reopened yesterday after ice and snow closed it for two days, stranding hundreds of drivers.



Scottish transport minister Stewart Stevenson faced withering criticism for the SNP government's response to the arctic conditions.



Labour branded it a "first-class cock-up" while the Lib Dems suggested Mr Stevenson should personally start helping to clear the snow.



Labour's Holyrood transport spokesman, Charlie Gordon, said hundreds of people spent the night in cars and buses on motorways while "the transport minister was on the BBC claiming a first-class response and refusing to apologise".



"In fact it was a first-class cock-up and he was responsible," he added.



Mr Stevenson told MSPs: "What happened on Monday has been extremely difficult and challenging - it should not have happened, and I have apologised for the failure to communicate the position better and earlier."



Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said the public should have access to grit and salt supplies to help clear roads.



He said: "In many cases people would like to have the opportunity to have access to grit and salt supplies so that on roads that are not on the council's gritting route they can... make the pavements a bit easier, make it a bit easier for them to get out of their driveways."



The minister also called on people to support their neighbours and help clear each others' driveways.



Bookies have slashed the odds of a white Christmas to 9/4 in the last 48 hours.



Alex Donohue of Ladbrokes said: "Punters who were snowed in last week brought our telephone lines and website to near meltdown with a flurry of bets for a white Christmas. Every day that the weather stays like this we cut the odds and pray."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Consultants - OTE up to £35,000

£15000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Franchise Operations Manager - Midlands or North West

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The position will be home based...

Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent publishing and...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue