UK weather latest: Storm Emma now threatens freezing rain as sub-zero temperatures continue

Roads and railways have been rendered impassable by one the coldest starts to March for years

Friday 02 March 2018 20:51
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Brutal cold has battered the UK for the third day in a row, with snow and high winds blamed for road pile-ups and hundreds of cancellations at train stations and airports.

Storm Emma’s sub-zero temperatures disrupted commuters across Britain as forecasters warned of life-threatening conditions. Roads have been rendered impassable by the coldest start to March on record and a number of people have died due to the weather.

The Met Office imposed a yellow warning for snow and ice in large parts of the country, warning of freezing rain and further spells of persistent snow in some regions.

The Environment Agency had 15 flood warnings and 36 flood alerts and said melting snow and ice could cause further issues once the snowfall comes to an end.

Freezing rain could be the next major threat with roads nationwide at risk of becoming “icy death traps”, motorists have been warned.

The RAC said frozen rain occurred when snow, ice, sleet or hail passes through a layer of warm air before cooling again closer to the ground, freezing immediately on impact.

Traffic spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Freezing rain perhaps represents one of the greatest challenges any driver could face.

“Droplets of rain which come into contact with the ground and other surfaces freeze instantly.

“This creates a huge hazard as roads may look clear and safe, despite actually being potentially icy death traps.

“Where freezing rain is forecast, put simply drivers should avoid using their vehicles.”

Over the Irish Sea, the treacherous weather caused outages in phone signal and internet for thousands of people.

EIR, the telecommunications company, said the severe weather had caused damage to its pole, cable and mast infrastructure in Ireland, knocking out access to broadband, telephone and mobile services to an estimated 10,000 customers.

The weather also caused havoc on the roads with a five-vehicle crash on the A38 in Devon.

A total of 30 cars needed help to get past the incident after being caught behind the crash.

There were road closures in place on the A303 in southern England, the A1 in Northumberland and the transpennine routes of the M62, A628 and A66.

Some 200 vehicles trapped overnight on the M62 were brought off the motorway on Friday morning, Greater Manchester Police said.

Highways England’s head of road safety Richard Leonard warned people in affected areas to stay at home.

“We are encouraging road users, particularly in the south-west, Pennine areas and Northumberland, to drive only if it’s necessary”, Mr Leonard said.

“Anyone thinking of using the roads should be advised to keep their distance and reduce speed, because even in conditions that seem normal, and the snow is not settling, it can be slippery if ice patches have formed, or where fresh grit has not been worked into the carriageway.”

The railways fared no better. All trains out of London Waterloo station after 8pm were cancelled and Virgin Trains East Coast customers were warned not on one of Britain’s flagship lines, which connects Edinburgh, Newcastle and Leeds with London.

The message was echoed across the country, with Southeastern, the train operator for Kent and East Sussex, advising travellers to “postpone your journey”.

Trains in Devon were severely disrupted after a sea wall was “significantly damaged” by huge waves, leaving tracks flooded. The vulnerable line has been battered by high seas and fierce gales throughout the week.

In Lewisham, south London, frustrated passengers walked along train tracks when ice disrupted power to the rails. Southeastern pleaded with them on Twitter to stay on board due to the risk to their lives and the knock-on delays to service.

Storm Emma has also left up to 50,000 travellers stranded abroad following hundreds of flight cancellations.

More than 1,900 flights to or from UK and Irish airports were cancelled today with 370 called off at Heathrow, 342 at Dublin and 219 at Edinburgh.

The military was deployed across the country to rescue cars that were trapped and ensure hospitals continue running.

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