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Temperatures plunge as big freeze continues

A freezing spell was forecast to maintain its grip on the south of the country today as temperatures plunged last night to as low as -11C across parts of the UK.

Thermometers fell to -11C in Aboyne in north east Scotland in the early hours of this morning with Shap in Cumbria registering a low of -11C.

MeteoGroup UK, the weather division of the Press Association, said temperatures had also fallen as low as -10C in Farnborough, Hampshire, and -10C in Capel Curig, Wales, overnight.

Brendan Jones, a forecaster at MeteoGroup, predicted parts of southern England and South Wales would register the lowest temperatures in the UK tonight and tomorrow morning.

"Southern England and South Wales are likely to be the coldest places because there is more cloud in the north," he said.

"I would not be surprised if we saw temperatures as low as -9C and -10C again tonight.

"In terms of the temperature, Scotland will be still be below freezing tonight but it won't be as cold as it has been. There will be a bit of snow heading southwards but not much."

The Met Office issued a severe weather warning for London and east and south-east England this morning with widespread icy roads and pavements.

Yesterday the AA said it was braced for more than 20,000 breakdowns on what was the first day back to work for millions of workers after the Christmas break.

Driving conditions were made hazardous yesterday as cold east winds brought in a wave of rain, sleet and snow that turned to ice in many places as temperatures dropped overnight.

The icy conditions played a part in a fatal accident in Lincolnshire when a woman was killed after her car got stuck on a level crossing and was hit by a train.

The 30-year-old was driving over the crossing in South Drove, near Spalding, when her car clipped a Ford Transit van heading in the opposite direction.

Water company Severn Trent was also prompted to appeal to its eight million customers across the Midlands and Wales to protect their water systems, after reports pipes were freezing even with heating on full blast.

And pensioners were advised to take extra precautions to make sure they stay warm during the cold weather.

Director General of Age Concern, Gordon Lishman, said: "With predictions of more snow and freezing temperatures this week we are urging vulnerable older people, who are more susceptible to the cold, to take extra precautions to stay warm and keep active.

"Many of the poorest pensioners are struggling to afford paying for essentials like food and heating. Yet despite this, up to £5bn in benefits is still going unclaimed."

He said anyone worried about high energy bills should call the charity's free helpline on 0800 00 99 66 for advice.

Police in Cumbria also warned that children were risking their lives by playing on the ice covering one of England's largest lakes.

Youngsters were seen on Saturday trying to smash holes with boulders as they played on the ice 50ft from the shore on Derwentwater in the Lake District.

The current cold snap is set to continue until the weekend when milder weather may finally arrive.