Severe weather warning as snow storms loom

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The Independent Online

The Met office has warned that they are now classing tomorrow's snowfall as an extreme weather event.

Up to 15cms of snow is expected to fall in some areas of the UK over the next two days as a cold front moves in from the freezing wastes of Russia.

This winter has been the coldest for 13 years and the coming snowfall is expected to be the hardest since February 1991.

This lunchtime light snow was falling intermittently in central London and much of the east of the country.

Heavy snow is expected to bring traffic chaos tomorrow with the commute to and from work expected to be badly hit.

Workers in Leeds and Bradford may have to trudge through up to 5 centimetres of snow in the morning, with a dusting also expected in London.

A spokesman for MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "Much of the country is in for significant snowfall which may just bear comparisons to the conditions experienced in February 1991.

"In the context of recent memory, tomorrow could be a very significant day in terms of snowfall."

The winter of 1991 is remembered by forecasters for a period of extremely heavy snow combined with strong winds, followed by a big freeze.

The treacherous conditions and snowdrifts of more than three metres high crippled parts of the road and rail network network and affected the economy as takings were down as people struggled to get to the shops.

The wintry weather moving in from the east will bring freezing temperatures, biting winds and snow to the eastern half of the UK by tonight.

People were warned to wrap up warm and expect disruption on the roads during the big freeze.

MeteoGroup said temperatures would barely get above freezing today, with icy winds making it feel even colder.

Up to 15cm of snow could fall in the Pennines with Lincolnshire and Yorkshire also likely to be badly affected.

The winds, which will generally be around 25-30mph, could get close to gale force in some places tonight, according to forecasts.

The spokesman explained: "Monday will be a very cold day across the UK with frequent snow showers for many areas.

"Some of the showers will be heavy, leading to some accumulations, particularly over the North Yorkshire Moors and the Pennines."

The AA have warned motorists to ensure they keep warm clothes in the car after dealing with unprepared drivers "flirting with hypothermia" at breakdowns during the last big freeze.

AA Patrol of the Year Andy Taylor said: "People often treat their car as an overcoat.

"But when you break down you are suddenly vulnerable to the weather.

"If you break down on a motorway, the safety advice is to get out of the car and wait behind the barrier. Unless you have extra clothes you really are flirting with hypothermia."

Earlier this month, temperatures plunged to lows of minus 13C (8.6F) during a three-week freeze.

Conditions finally improved and became milder from mid-January.

With overall temperatures in December and January between 1C (34F) and 1.5C (35F) below average and a freezing start to February looking likely, MeteoGroup said the last time the winter months were as cold was in 1995-1996.

During that winter, in particular in December, the weather was very cold and windy with plenty of snow.

On December 30, 1995 the UK national lowest temperature of minus 27.2C (-17F) was equalled - recorded in the Scottish village of Altnaharra.

The Met office warned that they were now classing tomorrow's snowfall as an extreme weather event.

They warning covers the south east of England including London.

Head of Forecasting Operations at MetService, Tom Defty said: "This is likely to be the heaviest and most widespread snowfall across England since January 2003.

"Parts of South-East England, including London and Eastern England will see anywhere from 10-15cm, perhaps above 20cm over the higher ground."

"Accompanied by strong winds, the worst of the snow will arrive in Kent during Monday morning before spreading North and West to the rest of England during the afternoon.

"Severe disruption to roads and airports is extremely probable during the peak of the Monday afternoon rush-hour."

"Through Monday night into Tuesday, a slow thaw will set in across Eastern areas as milder air turns falling snow back to rain."

He added: "Further outbreaks of snow are expected throughout this week, especially across Wales, Northern England and Scotland."

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