Motorists warned of treacherous driving conditions as forecasters predict heavy snow

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The Independent Online

Heavy snow is forecast for parts of south-east England over the next two days as a cold front moves across large parts of the country, prompting police to issue a warning to motorists.

The Met Office said that snow showers were expected to develop over eastern parts of the UK from tomorrow onwards and would become "heavy and prolonged in places".

Drivers have been warned to take extra care on the roads after several motorists lost their lives over the weekend.

A spokesman for the Met Office, said: "The probability of disruption due to severe weather conditions in parts of the United Kingdom within the next four days is 80 per cent.

"There is potential for several centimetres of snow to occur widely, and in excess of 15cm in a few locations, with Kent and parts of East Anglia most vulnerable to the heavier falls."

The Highways Agency advised drivers only to venture out in bad weather if "absolutely necessary". A spokesman said: "Drivers should drive slowly, dip your lights, and keep a good distance behind the car in front. We advise you to prepare yourselves and your vehicles and to take care on the roads."

Yesterday a car driver saw his teenage sister thrown to her death after their car overturned and span into a hedgerow. The 16-year-old girl was ejected from the car and was killed instantly following an accident with another car at a country crossroads. Her brother suffered minor head and leg injuries.

A woman who died in a head-on road crash on Friday was named yesterday by police as Katy Osborne, 26, from Jarrow, Newcastle, who died after the car she was driving was involved in the collision on the A1 in the Scottish Borders. The driver of the other vehicle was taken to hospital and treated for serious leg injuries following the crash, which happened at 12.30pm on Friday. No one else was involved in the accident.

Several motorists were also injured in a 26-car pile-up on a fog-bound M62 on Saturday, Christmas Eve. The accident happened near Warrington, Cheshire, on the eastbound carriageway at 10.30pm. The injured were taken to hospital suffering from neck, chest, shoulder and abdominal injuries. One woman remained in hospital last night although police said her injuries were not life threatening.

The Met Office said there was an 80 per cent risk of snow flakes falling between late today and tomorrow night in South-east England, with a 70 per cent chance in East Anglia and Lincolnshire.

There is a 50 per cent risk of flakes in the North-east, going down to 40 per cent in the Midlands, eastern Scotland and central southern England, and a 20 per cent chance in north-west England, Wales and south-west England. The risk across the rest of the UK is less than 20 per cent.

Julian Mayes, of the PA Weather Centre, said: "From Boxing Day it will get progressively colder, with colder air spreading across the country from the North-east. Certainly for most of eastern and south-eastern England it is going to feel a lot colder, not just because of the low temperatures, but due to the strength of the north-easterly wind."

Chief Superintendent Charles Griggs, of the Metropolitan Police Traffic Unit, said: "Drivers need to take special care when driving in bad weather, especially when it affects road conditions and visibility. Driving in snow and ice is very different from driving on a dry and sunny day and can affect both your ability to drive and your vehicle."

He advised drivers embarking on long journeys to take warm blankets and provisions with them and to ensure they take breaks or share the driving.

Despite the forecast of snow, William Hill looked to have won in the gambling stakes after it took £14,000 in wagers on a Yuletide snowfall in London alone. It stood to pay out £500,000 if a single flake had fallen on one of the capital's weather stations.

The year on the whole was warm and early weather figures for December point to 2005 having been quite dry and sunny, the Met Office said. The average temperature during the year was 9.5C and all areas were mild, about one degree above the long-term average. Rainfall was just below average, but parts of the South and the South-east were the driest since 1973. Sunshine was above average.

The year's weather will be remembered for the tornado that struck parts of Birmingham in late July. The violent twister had winds of more than 100mph and left several injuries.