Don't put your winter coat away just yet: White Easter looms as commuters battle ice, snow and appalling driving conditions


Freezing temperatures mean today is on track to be the coldest March day since 1986, forecasters said.

The unseasonably cold weather left travellers battling ice and snow, with the South of England being worst hit.

Jersey Airport was shut due to snow, and on the roads there were hazardous conditions on many major routes.

Blizzards were reported on the M40 in Warwickshire and there were numerous rush-hour accidents.

Strong winds added to drivers' problems with falling trees blocking some roads, while on the trains poor rail conditions led to delays in Sussex and Hampshire.

Forecasters warned of snow spreading to nearly every area of Britain, with almost 4in (10cm) expected in the worst-hit areas.

Although too early to officially record, it is thought to be the coldest at this time of year in 27 years.

The last time the UK experienced such a cold March day was on March 1 1986, Laura Caldwell, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association said.

In contrast, this time two years ago the country was basking in balmy temperatures of up to 17C (63F).

With more snow showers expected throughout the week, bookmakers have slashed the odds for a white Easter.

“Today has been a very cold day and it's going to be a bitterly cold night,” Ms Caldwell said.

“South-eastern England is seeing the worst of the weather along with the Channel Islands and should see two to 5cm of snow.

“Elsewhere, there will be scattered snow showers across much of the UK. It will be very frosty overnight but tomorrow will be a brighter day so will feel less bitterly cold.

“The South East of England will be the coldest overnight at minus 6 to minus 7C, and will remain the coldest tomorrow at around 2 to 3C. The warmest place will be the north-west of Scotland at 5 to 6C.

“It's not going to get warm any time soon.”

The closure of Jersey Airport meant a number of flights had to be cancelled.

Such severe blizzard conditions and strong gale force winds have not been seen on the island - normally regarded as one of the warmest parts of the country - in years.

It is feared the cold spell will have an impact on the main outdoor crop of Jersey Royals, which is planted from January to April.

On the roads, there were hazardous driving conditions on the A69 and A6 in Cumbria and on the A54 in Cheshire.

In Sussex, police said there had been “a number” of crashes caused by the snowy conditions as they warned motorists to take extra care on the roads.

While drivers contended with heavy snow on the M40 in Warwickshire, motorists in Wales had to put up with strong winds.

One lane of the M48 Severn Bridge was closed and falling trees blocked some Welsh roads.

Some of the roads where driving conditions were at their worst today included the A46 in Nottinghamshire, the A14 in Suffolk and the A353 in Dorset.

Fallen trees blocked roads in Newquay in Cornwall and in Lynton in Devon.

An RAC spokesman said it was on a red alert situation with its call centre teams and patrols dealing with 30% more breakdowns than on a normal Monday in March.

“By the end of the day we expect this to translate into the RAC helping 10,500 stranded members - 2,000 more than we had predicted for the time of year,” he added.

The bad weather meant no rail services were operating between Shanklin and Ryde Pier Head on the Isle of Wight, with minibuses running instead.

Condor Ferries services between Jersey and St Malo were also affected.

There was also a reduced service on TransEuropa Ferries' crossings between Ramsgate and Ostend, while services on Stena Line between Holyhead and Dublin were reduced.

Stena Line also had to cancel its 9am Rosslare to Fishguard service.

The cold snap led to the Local Government Association (LGA) putting out a warning to residents, postmen and milkmen to look out for elderly and vulnerable people.

Peter Box, chairman of the LGA's economy and transport board, said: “Council staff will be out and about over the next few days checking in on the people they know to be vulnerable and delivering hot meals and portable heaters, collecting prescriptions, defrosting pipes, fixing frozen boilers and making sure they have what they need.

“However, council staff can't be everywhere and we need support from our communities during prolonged freezing weather. We'd encourage anyone with elderly or vulnerable neighbours to call in on them over the next few days to make sure they're okay and not suffering in silence. Just a knock on the door of someone who's perhaps too proud or unable to ask for help can make all the difference.

“They may just need an extra blanket getting down from the loft or perhaps they didn't get out to collect their medicine this week. It takes very little time to check in on a neighbour but could potentially save lives.”


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

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference