Siberian freeze brings fears for the elderly

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EAST WINDS from Siberia brought Britain some of the coldest temperatures of the year yesterday, causing race meetings to be called off and an increased number of breakdowns on roads.

Temperatures as low as -9C were recorded early yesterday in Edinburgh, where the rugby international between Scotland and New Zealand was guaranteed only by the under pitch heating at Murrayfield. Glasgow recorded -7C. The lowest temperature in Britain so far this year was -9.9C, on 17 October 17 at Carnforth, Lanarkshire.

A heavy frost covered almost all of Britain, with Oxfordshire and the West Midlands measuring temperatures of -5C, the London Weather Centre said.

Snow was predicted for today, and the outlook for tomorrow and Tuesday was continuing very cold, with wintry showers, chiefly in the east. Racing at Ascot and Towcester was abandoned yesterday after an early inspection of the course.

The AA reported icy roads throughout much of the country, but there were no reports of major accidents overnight as drivers seemed to be heeding warnings.

A London Weather Centre spokesman said snow showers were likely over the east of England and Scotland from today.

He said: 'Snow showers will leave a couple of inches on the high ground and a dusting on the lower ground.'

Early winter snow in south- east England is rare. The last time there was snow lying in London in November was 1969.

An independent long-range forecaster, Piers Corbyn, said: 'The origin of all this is Russia. A record temperature was reached of -54.6C in Eastern Siberia on Thursday and is blowing its way across from the east.'

Meanwhile, the Isle of Lewis and other islands off the north-west coast of Scotland were enjoying unusually warm temperatures of 8C yesterday, thanks to cloud and wind.

With news of the cold snap, British Rail warned that severe bad weather could mean cancellations. A spokesman said: 'If we have severe bad weather there is no point trying to run a normal timetable.'

The AA has already prepared to activate contingency plans.

Alistair Cheyne, director of AA Roadside Services, said: 'We expect to do just over 13,000 breakdowns a day at this time of year, but the first few days of the cold snap have seen nearer 16,500.

Age Concern's Sarah McHugh warned the elderly to use heating rather than worry about bills. Last week it launched its annual 'Coldwatch' campaign which offers winter advice and urges neighbours and familes

to take extra care of the


William Hill yesterday quoted odds of 8-1 for a white Christmas in London, Cardiff, Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Norwich, Plymouth, Bristol, Southampton or Newcastle upon Tyne. The last time the Met Office recorded snow in London on December 25 was 1976.