More snow on the way as grit stocks dwindle

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The Independent Online

More snow for big-freeze Britain today was putting further pressure on the country's already-stretched winter resources.

Forecasters warned up to 20cm of snow could settle in many parts tonight and tomorrow, heralding a fresh round of travel disruption as grit supplies continue to dwindle.

The Met Office has issued a severe weather warning for Wales, the East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber and north-east England. There were also predictions that the rest of England is likely to see more falls of up to 10cm today.

Police in Kent - which yesterday saw some of the heaviest snowfalls - said the Army was on stand-by to help deal with the weather and advised people not to travel unless absolutely necessary.

There were other flurries across the south of the England, although initial reports suggested they were not as heavy as expected.

Fresh falls will increase the pressure on dwindling grit supplies across the country as local authorities have already been forced to cut their use of grit salt by a quarter to help conserve supplies.

Around 12,000 tonnes of salt at a UK distribution facility has been diverted from going abroad, and is being trucked to local councils.

Fifty trucks were leaving the INEOS Runcorn salt distribution facility today, with another 50 going tomorrow.

Temperatures were bitterly cold in the Scottish Highlands overnight, as low as -16C (3F), but much less severe elsewhere. London was just above freezing, Manchester a shade below and Cardiff -2C.

Clare Allen of MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said temperatures would struggle to rise above 1C or 2C today.

"There will be a north-east wind again which will make it feel colder, but much of northern England and Scotland will be dry and clear," she added.

National Grid today lifted its latest gas supply alert - its third such warning in a week - after more supplies came in from the market.

It was imposed yesterday after an imminent shortfall appeared to be looming, and it came after Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted gas was not running out despite recent record levels of demand.

The death toll from weather-related incidents has also risen to 26, with a wave of sports fixtures called off and more widespread travel problems.

The latest victim of the weather was a 42-year-old woman who died after being found lying in the snow in Newcastle yesterday.

She was discovered by a passer-by in a wooded area near Newbiggin Hall shops and Westerhope Comrades Social Club just before 11am and died in hospital.

Police in South Yorkshire also confirmed a 90-year-old woman had frozen to death in her garden near Barnsley.

Meanwhile, rescuers were also trying to trace a keen mountain-walker who disappeared in the Lake District.

Steven Bailey, 51, from Ambleside, Cumbria, was last seen in Windermere on Tuesday but has not been seen or made contact with anyone since.

Charities have called for increased cold weather fuel payments to pensioners to help prevent the number of cold weather deaths soaring.

This weekend some of the weekend's biggest sports events joined the growing list of weather-related casualties.

Seven Premier League football games were called off - at Wigan, Sunderland, Fulham, Hull and Burnley yesterday and Liverpool and West Ham today - with other league games, horse racing meetings and rugby union matches also postponed.

But around 2,500 Scouts and leaders braved the sub-zero temperatures at a winter camp.

They had to hammer tent pegs into the frozen ground at Gilwell Park, near Chingford, east London.

There was little sign of warmer weather, although in some areas tomorrow, temperatures might creep a little above freezing, bringing a hint of a thaw.

But forecasters said with a foot of snow on the ground in some places, it could take a week at that rate for it to disappear.

MeteoGroup said from Tuesday onwards there is a trend for slightly less cold weather, with milder air trying to come in from the south, but that could bring more snow, particularly across southern parts of England and Wales.

Yesterday heavy snow in Ireland led to Dublin Airport closing for four hours, with more than 70 flights affected with cancellations and delays.

Flights were also diverted and delayed at Belfast's George Best Airport, while there was also some disruption at UK airports including Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton.

Train passengers experienced delays and cancellations on some routes, but the Association of Train Operating Companies said most operators had returned to a fuller service this weekend, with many running their normal weekend timetables.

Eurostar was running around two-thirds of its normal service from London, a spokeswoman said.