Severe storms will bring gales and more snowfall

Eight inches of snow forecast in some areas
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The Independent Online

A severe winter storm is forecast to sweep the UK tonight, bringing heavy rain, gale-force winds and up to eight inches of snow to already battered areas.

Meteorologists predict southern England, the Midlands and Wales will be worst affected with sleet and blizzards as the storm blows in from the west, lasting well into tomorrow morning as it moves northwards.

Shiploads of rocksalt have meanwhile been sent from Italy and Tunisia to increase dwindling supplies, as concerns rise that local authorities may struggle to keep roads open. One English county council ran so low on rocksalt at the weekend that it began spreading table salt on the roads. Imports are also arriving from Germany and Spain.

"We are now buying in from abroad," said the Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears, yesterday. "These [conditions] occur typically once in 20 years, so obviously we do not keep these stocks all the time, it would be a waste of taxpayers' money."

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "Following a Government request, a number of European countries have made salt supplies available to us.

"We also understand key private sector salt suppliers in the UK, and some councils, have already arranged for their own overseas shipments which will be arriving in the UK in the coming days."

The salt shipment from Tunisia was understood to have been destined for Norway, but Norwegian authorities allowed suppliers to divert the shipment to Britain instead.

Gloucestershire County Council – its reserves dented by last week's heavy snowfall – bought 1,500 tonnes of coarse white salt, a by-product of table salt production, and began spreading on its A-roads last night.

"We were running low and had to look at other options," said Jason Humm of Gloucestershire Highways. "It is not perfect and it is not a long-term solution, but it will help us out of a difficult position to keep the network going."

In Snowdonia, mountain rescuers assisting two walkers who had fallen from Clogwyn Coch, a notoriously dangerous spot on Snowdon's Llanberis path, discovered the body of a 27-year-old man at the same spot where two brothers were found dead last Monday. The dead man came from Shrewsbury and has not been named. It was unclear how long his body had been there.

Mountain rescue teams dealt with six call-outs in the Snowdon area on Saturday alone, and urged walkers not to venture into the hills unless they were equipped with ice axes, crampons and the experience to deal with treacherous conditions.

The forecast of more storms will bring little relief to people in the south-west who have only just dealt with problems caused by last week's snowfall.

Temperatures plunged to minus 18C (minus 0.4F) as the wintry weather gripped Scotland again today.

The Highland ski resort of Aviemore recorded the lowest temperature in the UK this winter, forecasters said.

There were lows across other parts of the north of Scotland, with Altnaharra and Loch Glascarnoch recording temperatures of minus 15C (5F).

The temperature in Aberdeen got down to minus 12C (10.4F).

More snow swept into Scotland overnight, with the south and west of the country receiving up to 3in (8cm), but the north escaping fresh blizzards.

Forecasters said there was a possibility of snow flurries and showers in southern areas of Scotland today, although no more heavy falls were predicted.

Some householders in Somerset and Devon only had electricity supplies restored yesterday following power cuts which began on Thursday.

Also in the south-west, police warned drivers to take care on minor roads where conditions are still dangerous.

In Wiltshire on Saturday, three people who stopped to help a motorist who had crashed after skidding on ice were seriously injured when they were hit by another car swerving on the same patch of ice minutes later.

Other road users had different problems: estate agent Mark Rigby of Bedford had his car clamped after it skidded on black ice and got stuck in the snow.

Mr Rigby, 29, left the VW Golf and walked to work, returning shortly afterwards to find the car had been immobilised. He was charged a £125 release fee.

"I understand people have a job to do, but you would have thought common sense would have prevailed," he said.

A spokesman for the company that clamped his car said Mr Rigby could appeal.