Snowy Britain faces 10-day wintry blast

Britain is tonight facing a 10-day wintry blast from the North Sea with temperatures plummeting as low as minus 6C, forecasters warned.

The earliest widespread snowfall for 17 years caused disruption across the UK today with up to 6ins (15cm) of snow settling in the Scottish Highlands and northern England.



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 of England as well as parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.



It warned of snowfall reaching up to 10ins (25cm) over higher ground by Saturday.



Some 6ins (15cm) of snow fell overnight in Aberdeenshire, 4.7ins (12cm) in the Scottish Borders and 4ins (10cm) in Durham, the Met Office said.



Stephen Davenport, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "It is unusual for it to be this cold at this time of year. This kind of weather with persistent north-easterly winds is highly unusual.



"There is high pressure over Greenland and low pressure in the Baltics so we have winds blowing from the north-east across Europe.



"It will fluctuate a bit but not by very much so we're looking at at least the next week and a half staying thoroughly cold.



"Day-time temperatures will be between 1C and 3C and generally between minus 2C and minus 4C overnight.



"We're expecting to see more snow showers coming down the eastern side, coming down across Cornwall and Wales and maybe parts of the south-east."



Londoners were warned sleet could hit the capital in the early hours of tomorrow morning.



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."



Upcoming sporting fixtures could be at risk with racing at Newcastle on Saturday becoming one of the first of the weekend's sporting fixtures to fall victim to the snow.



Gosforth Park was under 7ins (17.7cm) of snow while bad weather could also hit Saturday's FA Cup second round matches.



Motorists were also warned of black ice on the roads.



By 5pm, the AA said it had attended more than 11,000 breakdowns and expected to be called out to 14,000 by the end of the day - a 50% increase on normal call-outs.



The motoring group said it deals with 9,500 breakdowns on a normal Thursday in November.



Paul Leather, AA patrol of the year, said: "Our concern for this evening and tomorrow morning is black ice - the snow will have thawed a bit during the day and could prove treacherous as people head home.



"If possible, people should stick to the gritted main roads and keep their speed down. In case of any problems, at the very least, carry plenty of warm clothing and a fully-charged mobile phone."



The AA said the busiest areas were Aberdeen, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and North Yorkshire where breakdowns went up by 60% to 70%.



The A170 at Sutton Bank was particularly affected by snow, as was the B1249 at Staxton Bank near Scarborough.



The A165 Reighton bypass was partially blocked, with slow traffic and hazardous driving conditions around the Sands Road junction because of snow.



A spokesman for North Yorkshire County Council said six village primary schools had been forced to close due to the snow.



Aberdeenshire Council said 121 schools in the area were closed or partially closed because of snow.



Police said all roads in the Grampian region had snow and ice, and roads which were closed included the A93 at Glenshee, the A939 to Ballater where drifting snow at Corgarff closed the road, and the A957 Crathes to Stonehaven, at the Slug Road, which had hard-packed snow.

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