Forecasters warn of rush-hour snow tomorrow

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The Independent Online

Heavy snow caused major disruption again today and forecasters are warning there is more to come.

Hundreds more schools closed and motorists endured further mayhem on the roads as up to 8in (20cm) fell during blizzards.

The death toll of the week's wintry blast also rose as it emerged two walkers died after venturing out in icy conditions in the Lake District.

But as travellers reeled from another day of airport hold-ups and train and bus service delays, forecasters warned southern regions faced a fifth consecutive day of chaos tomorrow.

The snow is heading south with London, Dorset, Somerset, Hampshire, Berkshire and southern Oxfordshire expecting coverings of up to 6in (15cm).

Paul Knightley, forecaster for MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, also said plunging temperatures tomorrow night would make Britain's roads even more dangerous over the weekend.

The forecaster added: "There is no sign of the let up as far as the snow and ice is concerned.

"The only difference is that the snow is likely to be wetter than what we have had earlier in the week.

"Areas such as London may not see the snow settle as thick."

With temperatures dropping as low as minus 8C (17.6F), councils were perilously close to running out of salt and grit with some forced to ration its use.

Councillor Paul Bettison, chairman of the Local Government Association Environment Board, said eight councils have had to "prioritise" their remaining salt stocks in order to focus on the most important roads.

He added: "If that fails to deal with any issue, then councils will talk to the Highways Agency to look for further supplies."

Some councils said they were now using salt only on major routes and Britain's biggest salt supplier, Cheshire-based Salt Union, said staff were working around the clock but still could not meet demand.

Today snow settled thickest in south Wales, western England, the Midlands, counties to the north of London, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

A body, believed to be that of a missing 60-year-old man, was discovered in Great Langdale, in the Lake District, just 24 hours after another man in his 60s fell 300 feet to his death nearby.

In a repeat of Monday's weather - which stopped millions getting to work - airports, railways and roads were hit hard.

Luton Airport cancelled 19 flights as clearing work took place and planes were also unable to land and take off from Belfast City airport, Robin Hood International Airport, near Doncaster, and Aberdeen.

The runway at East Midlands Airport near Derby was briefly closed as staff worked to clear it, while Birmingham Airport remained open with temporary runway closures.

On the railways, passengers were warned they faced disrupted train services in several areas, including Wales, the Midlands, the South West and Yorkshire.

The Highways Agency repeated its warnings for drivers to take extra care, particularly on the M4 and M5 in Wiltshire, where driving conditions were especially dangerous.

A lorry jack-knifed near Bristol between Aztec West and Cribbs Causeway on the M5, and bus services on First, Wessex Buses and South Gloucestershire Buses were suspended.

A deluge of snow in central Birmingham closed one lane on the A38 Aston Expressway, a busy main route into the city centre.

Junction 19 of the M1 in Leicestershire was also temporarily closed to stop traffic entering the A14 because of the road's hazardous condition.

Scotland recorded between six and eight inches of snow, closing many roads, including the A96 between Keith and Inverurie and the A940 Forres to Granton road.

Fallen trees also blocked several routes, and the B9170 was closed near Oldmeldrum due to a lorry accident.

In Wales, the worst-hit area was Powys, where all 120 primary and secondary schools in the county were shut.

Hospitals were experiencing a deluge of patients reporting injuries sustained in the extreme weather.

The Royal United Hospital (RUH), in Bath, Somerset, asked patients and visitors not to travel to the hospital unless absolutely necessary while the Bristol Royal Infirmary treated 50 patients with ankle, wrist, knee or arm injuries connected to the conditions.

In Nottingham, the launch of the city's new Speakers' Corner by Justice Secretary Jack Straw had to be postponed because of the snow, while there were delays to tram services.

All of the city's libraries were closed and bin collections suspended, Nottingham City Council said.

This afternoon a 15-year-old girl broke her ankle in a sledging accident on a hill in the village of Wickwar, South Gloucestershire.

Two teenage girls remained in hospital today after a sledging accident in the Rother Valley Country Park, Rotherham, on Tuesday claimed the life of Francesca Anobile, 16.