Arctic storms head south to England and Wales

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The Independent Online

The high winds and blizzards that have already brought severe disruption to Scotland were heading for England and Wales last night.

The high winds and blizzards that have already brought severe disruption to Scotland were heading for England and Wales last night.

The Meteorological Office has issued an extreme weather warning, forecasting "exceptionally severe" conditions as the snowstorms that have closed motorways and cut off electricity supplies in Scotland and Northern Ireland move southwards. The forecasters warned of 10 inches of snow and temperatures below freezing.

Scotland and northern counties of England were still suffering the effects of the poor weather, despite a slight improvement in conditions. An estimated 100,000 homes in the Scottish Borders and Northumberland were without power yesterday. Although the M74 road linking the west of Scotland with England had been reopened, the A7 from Hawick to Galashiels remained closed.

Police in Scotland advised motorists not to travel unless their journey was "essential", and also suggested they carry emergency equipment and supplies such as food, drink, warm clothing and a shovel.

Train travel was also badly affected. West coast rail lines to Scotland were blocked north of Lockerbie, and 40train passengers who had boarded a ScotRail sleeper service from London at 9.30pm on Monday finally reached their destinations yesterday, 40 hours later, after staying in a hotel in Preston on Tuesday night. All rail sleeper services have been cancelled.

No trains ran across the border on Tuesday, when 120 people were stranded for almost 10 hours after a commuter train was stuck in the snow at Stewarton.

The Met Office was forecasting yesterday that similar conditions would settle in England, blocking some roads. Severe frosts are predicted for the rest of the week. This can pose particular problems in areas where standing water from melting snow gathers on roads, such as Co Durham.

Up to 10,000 families in Northern Ireland were without power yesterday after gales and snowstorms struck the province. Engineers working for the electricity supply company were being flown in to make repairs, amid criticism that the people of Northern Ireland pay 25 per cent more for their electricity than consumers in England.

A spokesman for the Met Office said that the bad weather stemmed from a nearby area of low pressure that had drifted in from the Atlantic. "At the moment it is centred to the east of the country and is pulling the cold, northerly winds across from the north and north-east. So we are getting it from the Arctic and Scandinavia.

"We can expect rain and sleet across low ground in England and Wales and snow on the high ground. The temperatures during the day should be just above freezing, dropping to two or three degrees below at night. Scotland will continue with minus 10C for the rest of the week, although the snow clouds will disappear," the spokesman said.

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