Heavy snow plunges Britain back into chaos

Return to work after Christmas break hampered by severe blizzards

The post-Christmas comedown was made all the more miserable for thousands yesterday as heavy snowfall caused the number of vehicle breakdowns to more than double.

The snow was expected to reach up to 25cm (10in) in the worst affected areas of Wales and the West Midlands overnight, and up to 15cm in hilly parts of the North-west and East Midlands. The Met Office issued severe weather warnings for Wales and much of England, with higher ground expected to experience the heaviest snowfall.

Dave Britton, a forecaster at the Met Office, said that the snow was about as bad as last Monday's, which brought chaos to the country's roads and transport networks.

"It's about comparable to last week. It's difficult to say though, as it's regions that weren't overly affected last time," he said. "The worst snow is going to be across parts of the West Midlands and mid and South Wales, where there could be up to 20 to 25cm of snow."

Mr Britton added that further outbreaks of snow, sleet and rain were expected today and, while the Met Office did not plan to issue any additional weather warnings for other parts of the country, it had not been ruled out.

As the snow began to fall, the AA said it expected to attend more than 18,000 breakdowns across the country yesterday – more than double the 8,500 it deals with on an average Tuesday. By 3pm it had dealt with 14,000 breakdowns, with calls being received at a rate of around 1,100 each hour – mostly from South Wales, Gloucestershire and northern Scotland.

Gavin Hill-Smith, of the AA, said: "What we found last week, particularly on that Monday, was that the snow fell nationally and very, very heavily in a short space of time. Today I think people are better prepared for it – they have had a week of dealing with the conditions."

According to the AA, the most common reasons for callouts in snowy weather are low-speed collisions with other cars or street furniture, along with flat batteries. The service yesterday dispatched its fleet of specially adapted four-wheel-drive vehicles to some of the worst-hit regions.

A series of accidents led to lane closures and part-closures of several motorways and A-roads across the country. But despite the trouble on the roads, the AA stopped short of advising drivers to remain at home. "If people are going to drive sensibly according to the conditions and are properly equipped, there's no reason why they shouldn't travel, but safety has to come first. Even if the people know the roads particularly well they shouldn't be complacent," Mr Hill-Smith said.

The Highways Agency issued a statement that it was prepared to deal with the extreme weather. "Our salt spreaders and snow ploughs have been working across the country and will continue to operate for as long as the cold weather continues," it said.

Not all drivers appeared confident in the agency's ability to deal with the snow, however. Supermarkets yesterday reported a huge increase in the demand for salt as drivers used it as makeshift road grit. Sales of Sainsbury's rock salt were up 900 per cent on the beginning of last week.

The bookmaker William Hill is now offering 16/1 odds, from an original 33/1, that snow will fall on Big Ben as it rings midnight on 31 December.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss