Winter blows in from Siberia

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The Independent Online
Winter arrived from Siberia yesterday as snow signalled the first icy chill of the season after the mildest autumn this century. Heavy snowfalls were reported in East Anglia, Kent and Cambridgeshire.

Weather forecasters said drier weather is expected towards the end of the week but even colder air from the Continent will send night-time temperatures well below freezing.

A London Weather Centre spokesman said the snow was caused by an easterly airstream which originated in the steppes of Siberia and picked up moisture over the North Sea.

The RAC reported severe problems for motorists, especially in Kent, where the M20, London-bound M2 and the south-eastern quadrant of the M25 were badly affected by snow. In Cambridgeshire, heavy snow reduced visibility in some areas to 50 feet, while the picture in Norfolk was "grim".

The AA and RAC reported problems as snow and ice made many roads treacherous as far apart as Kent and County Durham. Drivers in many parts of England were left facing miserable journeys home last night.

Weathermen said temperatures in many areas were below freezing and warned that though the snow was likely to ease tomorrow, there was no sign of milder weather over the next few days.

The RAC advised motorists to check their cars had anti-freeze, to carry a warm blanket in case of breakdowns and to allow more time for journeys. The AA said car breakdowns in parts of Kent, Essex and East Anglia were up by a third, with flat batteries and electrical faults mostly to blame.

The snow came as bookmakers reported a flurry of bets on a white Christmas. William Hill cut the odds against snow falling in London on December 25 from 10-1 to 8-1, while Ladbrokes reduced them from 7-1 to 5-1.