A red weather warning is in place for south-west England and south Wales as Storm Emma meets the “Beast from the East” and hammers the country with sub-zero temperatures and high wind.
The warning states that heavy snow and blizzard conditions are expected as Britain braces itself for another day of travel chaos.
Power supplies and other utilities are also likely to face disruption from the weather along with damage to trees and other structures.
“The snow will be accompanied by very strong easterly winds leading to severe drifting,” the Met Office said.
“Some places could also see significant ice build-up due to freezing rain from later on Thursday evening, most likely in the south.
“Long delays and cancellations of public transport seem highly likely. Some roads are likely to become blocked by deep snow, stranding vehicles and passengers.
“Long interruptions to power supplies and other utilities are very likely to occur, along with damage to trees and other structures due to heavy snow or ice.”
The Environment Agency issued several flood warnings and urged “immediate action” by residents in Cornwall, the Humber and Tyne estuaries, and Swanage Bay.
The agency said: “High tides and Storm Emma could cause flooding along the north-east and south-west coastlines.”
With the significant drop in temperature the National Grid warned there may not be enough gas to meet demand in the UK.
Industry, gas-fired power stations and large businesses and will be asked to cut their usage if there are shortages ensuring that domestic consumers are only affected as a very last resort.
Roads, airports and railways have all been severely hit with travel chaos throughout the UK.
Around 100 vehicles in Dorset were left stranded on the A35 near Puddletown and a coach full of elderly passengers has been stuck in Northumbria for eight hours.
Hampshire Police called in the military to help deal with a “build-up of traffic” and stranded motorists on the A31, while Avon and Somerset declared a “major incident” and launched a rescue operation for trapped drivers.
“If you are stranded, please stay in your vehicle, call for assistance and wait for help to arrive. Don’t abandon your vehicle as it can hamper the efforts of emergency services”, Chief Superintendent Ian Wylie said.
In Scotland, soldiers from 3 Rifles and 2 Scots, based in Dreghorn Barracks and Penicuik, were deployed on Thursday to support the movement of about 200 critical care workers over their shift change periods at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Western General.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Our armed forces stand ready to help as Britain is hit by severe weather.
“Our service personnel are showing great dedication and a spirited sense of duty as they support local authorities and keep people safe.”
NHS staff have been praised for walking for miles in the snow and sleeping overnight in hospitals to continue to care for patients.
Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, said the severe weather was an “added burden on top of the recent ‘usual’ winter” and hospitals were likely to be forced to cancel routine procedures.
He added: “Today and the next few days will particularly stretch trusts, with staff struggling to get to work and ambulance trusts having immense problems getting patients to and from hospital.
“Overall NHS staff are pulling together and making immense efforts to keep people our hospitals safe.”
The sub-zero weather, combined with high numbers of flu cases and norovirus constituted a “perfect storm” of pressure on the health service, NHS England said.
Police forces across the country advised against driving at all. The warnings came as a seven-year-old girl was killed when a car collided with a house in Cornwall, in a crash thought to be weather-related.
A 75-year-old woman was also found dead in a snow-covered street in Leeds.
West Yorkshire Police said the woman’s body was discovered lying partially under a car in Farsley, a suburb six miles west of the city centre.
Severe weather also led to two teenage boys being taken to hospital after they were trapped under a fallen tree in Manchester.
Firefighters used a chainsaw and cutting gear to release the pair who suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries.
Among all the chaos there was some good news as a baby was born on the A66 in freezing conditions after the terrible driving conditions prevented the family reaching the hospital.
Sienna Waring was delivered by her father Andrew as he tried to get her mother Daniella to hospital.
She was born near Stockton-on-Tees moments before paramedics arrived at the scene, weighed 10lb 1oz and was taken to Darlington Memorial Hospital to stay warm.
The Met Office has 11 live severe weather warnings for snow, ice and wind in place for the UK. The final warning is in place until 11.55pm on Monday.
Additional reporting by agencies
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