Ice danger as temperatures plummet overnight

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Millions of Britons faced treacherous icy conditions today as week of severe wintry weather showed no sign of ending.

Temperatures in some parts of the UK plunged as low as minus 10C overnight (14F), turning the country's widespread snow patches into a slippery carpet of ice.

Motorists up and down the country are being warned of dangerous driving conditions, with millions of others facing another day of disruption.

Tomorrow will see snow showers return to the UK, mainly affecting the north of the country, especially higher areas.

Forecaster Paul Mott, of MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said of today: "It will be a very icy start to the day, especially on untreated roads.

"There will be a few snow showers over the western fringes of Wales, but otherwise it will be a fine bright day for much of the UK.

"Tomorrow we are going to see some possibly extensive snow falling across the northern part of the UK, with the worst areas being those on higher ground."

Yesterday there was a fifth day of travel chaos after heavy falls in the West Country, Midlands, Home Counties and parts of Scotland.

Thousands of schools across the country were also forced to close while passengers faced airport hold-ups and train and bus service delays.

As the worst UK's week of travel disruption for more than 18 years persisted, Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon reportedly called on Britons to "stop whingeing" and queried why more drivers have not acquired snow chains for their cars.

The Daily Mail quoted him as saying during a Westminster lunch: "Why has nobody got snow chains and why are you all whingeing about what the Government hasn't done?"

The Department for Transport today insisted his comments had been taken out of context.

One of the two main roads between England and South Wales remained closed today after sheets of ice up to a metre square fell from overhead sign gantries and smashed the windscreens of five vehicles.

The M4 Second Severn Crossing was closed along with the original M48 bridge yesterday during the worst of the weather.

One lane in both directions on the M48 bridge reopened after nearly six hours last night, with a speed limit of 50mph, but the other bridge remained fully closed until further notice.

Thousands of Welsh rugby fans hoping to travel to Scotland for Sunday's Six Nations clash also saw their plans thrown into disarray after heavy snow grounded flights at Bristol airport.

Earlier 200 motorists were helped to safety after being stranded overnight when snow fell a foot deep in Devon.

They were helped from their cars by police, Army and civilian teams on the A38 and A380 south of Exeter and the A386 near Tavistock.

In the West, more than 1,000 schools were closed, while similar numbers were shut in the Thames Valley and in a combination of eastern England plus counties to the north of London.

Wales was also badly hit, with more than 200 closed.

Luton Airport was closed for a number of hours and when flights resumed they remained subject to delay and/or cancellation. Services at Bristol were also suspended for a large part of the day, with many flights cancelled.

First Great Western train services between Bristol Temple Meads and Severn Beach were suspended, with no replacement transport available, because of poor rail conditions.

The AA said that by the end of yesterday it expected to have attended a total of more than 70,000 breakdowns since Monday.

More than 6,100 call-outs were received today by 12.30pm, and the workload throughout the day was double the norm for a Friday in February.

The severe weather conditions left 21,000 homes across the West Country without power.

Flights at Bristol International Airport were operating today but with severe delays.

Heavy snow closed runways until around 4pm yesterday and almost all flights were cancelled.

This morning, the airport said all airlines planned to operate a full flight programme today, subject to continuing weather conditions, but disruption was possible.

There were also problems with ice on some of the roads accessing the airport and the Airport Express Flyer Coach service was operating but unable to make stops in some areas.

Police forces across the West Country advised motorists to only make journeys if they were essential as many roads were covered in black ice.

Roads across Wiltshire were particularly badly affected, with several closures overnight.

Staff struggling to get to work meant that Bath's Royal United Hospital cancelled orthopaedic surgery this weekend. All planned surgery due to take place on Monday has also been cancelled, along with morning outpatient clinics.