Snow brings parts of Britain to a standstill

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The Independent Online

Wintry weather brought parts of the country to a standstill today as forecasters predicted "a lot more" snow next week and a bitterly cold weekend.

Dozens of schools were closed and many roads were impassable, while a plane from Lanzarote with 196 passengers on board overshot its landing at Newcastle airport.

Though Scotland and the north east of England once again bore the brunt of the bad weather - with dumps of up to 30cm recorded in the Highlands and North Yorkshire - snow was also drifting across Wales and the South West.

Forecasters said the cold snap was set to tighten its grip, blanketing swathes of the country in white by the middle of next week.

Some 10ins (25cm) are expected to fall over higher ground on Saturday and parts of the Midlands and London will not remain unscathed.

Aisling Creevey, of MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "It's definitely staying cold and going into next week, we could see a lot more snow.

"There is a low pressure system across the country and if it moves the way it is looking to at the moment, it's going to be very windy, very snowy and really bitter."

Even London is likely to get a dusting of the white stuff but this is unlikely to last and any heavy snowfall is likely to be short-lived.

However, people have been warned the wintry spell could last for at least 10 days as biting winds swoop in from the North Sea and night-time temperatures plummet.

During the day, these will struggle to get above freezing in many areas.

The unusual weather - and the earliest November snowfall for 17 years - has been caused by high pressure over Greenland and low pressure in the Baltics, forcing cold winds from the north-east across Europe.

It has seen daytime temperatures hover between 0C and 5C and between minus 2C and minus 9.1C overnight, which was recorded at Redesdale Camp, Northumberland.

The county was also hit by one of the heaviest snowfalls yesterday after 6ins fell in some areas.

A similar amount fell in Aberdeenshire, 4.7ins (12cm) and 4ins (10cm) in Durham.

Today the Met Office issued severe weather warnings for widespread icy roads and heavy snow across the North East, Yorkshire and Humber, East Midlands, the East and south-west England as well as parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Meanwhile, motorists battled treacherous conditions amid warnings of black ice.

Police said all roads in the Grampian region were covered in snow and ice this morning while the A93 at Glenshee, the A939 to Ballater and the A957 Crathes to Stonehaven, at the Slug Road, were also blocked in places.

Many cars struggled to get off the driveway this morning and by 12.30pm, the AA had attended around 8,000 call-outs which were coming in at more than 1,300 every hour this afternoon.

The motoring organisation expects this figure to exceed 15,000 by the end of the day.

Paul Leather, AA patrol of the year, said: "Cold weather affects the chemical performance of batteries, so they really take a pounding during this weather."

Aberdeenshire council said 121 schools in the area were closed or partially closed because of snow while some children in Durham were also turned away from classes.

Newcastle airport also closed for a short time after the Thomsonfly Boeing 737-800 struggled to land.

No-one on board was injured.

John Hammond, Met Office forecaster, said: "This snow we're seeing at the moment and expecting to see is the heaviest widespread snow since November 1993 when the Highlands got around 12ins (30cm) and North Yorkshire got 10.5ins (27cm).

"Winds are continuing to blow in from a north-easterly direction over the course of the rest of this week and into next week. Even where we haven't had any snow, temperatures are going down to minus 5C or minus 6C in several places."

Forthcoming sporting fixtures could be at risk with racing at Newcastle on Saturday becoming one of the first of the weekend's casualties.

Bad weather could also hit tomorrow's FA Cup second round matches.

The RSPCA was bracing itself for a busy period.

The charity has urged pet-owners to keep dogs away from lakes or ponds which may have iced over and avoid shutting cats out of the house for long periods.

RSPCA wildlife scientist Sophie Adwick added: "Winter can be hard for wildlife and every year the RSPCA rescues lots of animals which are dehydrated, hungry and cold.

"Food and water can be scarce at this time of year anyhow and ground frosts make finding food even more difficult."

The AA said it was called out to 12,000 breakdowns by 4.30pm today and expected to attend more than 16,000 by the end of the day.

The motoring group described it as a "very busy day" with calls coming in at 1,220 every hour ahead of rush-hour.

Wales and the North East were said to be the busiest for breakdowns.

Paul Leather, AA patrol of the year, added: "Although there was less snow last night, black ice has been causing problems, as it's almost impossible to spot and things go wrong very quickly on it.

"Keep your speed down and, where possible, stick to the main roads that have been gritted - it may be that you have to override your sat nav to do this."