Icy road misery, but cold snap raises hope of white Christmas

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The Independent Online

Motorists were warned of treacherously icy roads last night as meteorologists said that the cold snap showed no signs of abating.

Heavy rain froze on road surfaces in Cornwall, causing a series of crashes. One lorry leaked diesel after an accident and a fuel tanker stalled on the ice in another.

Freezing conditions would continue into Wednesday with sleet in the Midlands and further snow over the higher ground in Scotland, the Met office warned yesterday.

A bitterly cold northerly wind with further wintry showers will chill Scotland today, especially near the coast. The rain will spread south from Scotland, and East Anglia and west Wales will be wet for much of the day. The rest of England and Wales will be dry, but will feel colder than yesterday, it said.

In the South-west, which experienced heavy snow on Friday, Inspector Andy Lilburn said: "Rain is now falling in parts of Cornwall and as a result of freezing temperatures ice is forming in widespread areas of the county. The effect is a growing number of road traffic collisions. Devon and Cornwall police are warning drivers to take extra care, keeping driving speeds down and, indeed, to consider whether their journey is necessary at all."

The area was recovering from a sudden snow blast on Bodmin Moor on Friday, which left 1,000 people stranded in their vehicles for up to six hours in the freezing conditions.

Accidents blocked roads in the area that had already been hit by five inches of snow.

In Scotland, five people died in three separate road accidents on Friday. Police warned drivers to take extra care in high winds and driving rain after two teenagers from Elgin died in a crash near Birkenhills after their Vauxhall Corsa collided with a Fiat Punto. Another driver, 72, died near Rosewell, Midlothian. A man and a woman were also killed in a three-car crash near Collin in Dumfries and Galloway.

Police are appealing for witnesses to the accidents. Inspector Ian Kirkwood, of Grampian Police's traffic department, said of the Birkenhills accident: "This was a horrific crash which occurred on a relatively straight stretch of road. Although we are in the early stages of the inquiry and the cause is not known yet, the weather conditions at the time were poor with high winds, driving rain and surface water on the carriageway."

Thermal underwear was reported to be selling well as Britons ensured they were ready to face the wintry weather.

Damart, a manufacturer of thermal underwear in Bingley, West Yorkshire, said it received more orders last week than in any other in its 50-year history.

With the coldest winter in a decade forecast, an elusive white Christmas may may be seen this year. Metcheck.com, a weather forecaster, says London has a 60 per cent chance of a white Christmas. Bookmaker Coral is offering odds of 3-1 that Londoners will see snow on 25 December.