Snow brings avalanche of travel warnings

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Blizzards have left large parts of the country covered in thick snow, creating treacherous driving conditions. And there is more bitter weather due this week.

The Highways Agency advised motorists to check the forecast and road conditions before setting out and, if necessary, to delay their journeys until conditions improved. If travel is unavoidable, motorists should make sure they have food and drink, warm clothes, boots, de-icer, a spade and scraper, the agency said.

The RAC said traffic disruption could be at its worst today. Roger Watson, an RAC spokesman, said: "A lot of people are going to be back to work and that's when we really expect quite a peak volume on the road." The A2 and A20 in Kent were almost impassable yesterday, police said. The London-bound carriageway of the M20 was closed to traffic at junction 13, although the coast-bound lanes were open, while the London-bound carriageway of the A20 was shut.

The Channel Tunnel terminal was also closed last night. A Kent Police spokesman said: "There are no trains leaving on the Channel Tunnel, and all traffic is being directed down to Dover."

Train services in the South-east, including services by South Eastern Trains, Southern and Thameslink, were disrupted with rail companies advising passengers to check availabilty of services before travelling.

The wintery snap was brought on by North Sea storms blowing heavy snow over eastern and central England.

By noon yesterday, up to 5cm of snow had fallen in West Sussex with reports of 12cm on the higher ground of the North Downs, according to Simon Cardy, a weather forecaster for the Met Office. "There are a lot of showers developing in the North Sea and they are coming across the eastern parts of the UK. Some of the snow showers are heavy, across East Anglia and Kent in particular," he said.

Up to 2cm of snow also fell in East Anglia, West Yorkshire and the North-east. There were warnings of a "high risk" of ice on roads and pavements in the coming days. Last night, the snow was likely to move up towards the North-east and into hilly areas, where there could be as much as 15cm of snow. The West Country, however, was expected to avoid the wintry weather.

Snow is likely to continue falling over the next two days with the Midlands and the north-east coasts of England and Scotland also expected to be affected. But forecasters said the South-east could experience the worst of the snow, with up to 10cm possible in East Sussex, the Medway, Essex and Suffolk.

Temperatures dropped to minus 2C when the blizzard arrived on Monday night but colder weather, as low as minus 5C (23F) in England and minus 8C (17.6F) in Scotland, is anticipated. Sergeant Paul Ray, from Norfolk Police, said the county was braced for a "significant" amount of snow and warned that some areas could have around 10cm in the next 24 hours.

"It is not causing too much of a problem at the moment, but as people start moving around and the snowfall gets heavier, we are likely to have more problems on the roads," he said.

Kent Police also warned that the worst was still to come. Inspector Mark Holt said: "There is an east-west split in Kent with large parts of the county clear but quite heavy snow in the east. Our advice to drivers is, as usual, to stay indoors unless travel is essential. We are expecting that worse is yet to come."