Warning as heavy snowfall hits UK
4 February 2012
Last updated at 12:34 ET
The Met Office has issued weather warnings for across the country
Heavy snow is falling across much of the UK, disrupting flights and leading to calls for drivers to take more care.
Snow has hit Southern Scotland, the Welsh Valleys and England‘s north and Midlands and Met Office severe weather warnings apply to much of the UK.
Forecasters expect 5-10cm (up to 4in) to fall in central, eastern and southern England, with the heaviest falls expected after dusk.
BAA has cancelled one-third of Sunday’s flights from London Heathrow Airport.
Heathrow’s chief operating officer Normand Boivin said the decision to introduce a revised flight schedule before snow had fallen was taken in an effort to minimise disruption to passengers.
Latest developments include:
- North West Ambulance Service asks people to stay indoors following an increase in fall-related 999 calls
- Transport for London prepares gritters to put more than 10,000 tonnes of salt on the capital’s roads
- Saturday’s football programme was badly disrupted
- The sea freezes in places, including Dorset’s Sandbanks resort
- The AA warns motorists to pack shovels, warm clothes, snacks and fully charged phones
The motoring organisation said it was expecting double the normal level of callouts, having dealt with 1,500 vehicles per hour on Saturday morning.
Its advice came after the Highways Agency extended its amber alert of a “high probability” of severe snow to 09:00 GMT on Sunday.
The RAC’s Kevin Andrews said heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures would create “a dangerous cocktail of driving conditions” and urged drivers to stay at home where possible.
Treacherous driving conditions are expected on Sunday morning
Air passengers at London’s Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports have been advised to contact their airline for more information.
A list of which flights will operate will be available on the Heathrow website from around 18:00 GMT on Saturday.
Air travel had already been disrupted across the whole of Europe – flights from Rome and Amsterdam’s Schiphol airports to UK destinations, and Saturday morning flights to Amsterdam from Birmingham, Manchester and Heathrow were cancelled or delayed.
Due to the worsening conditions, British Airways said it would allow passengers scheduled to fly on Sunday to re-book for journeys between Monday and Thursday.
A spokeswoman said the airline would assess flying conditions throughout the weekend.
The Met Office has issued amber “be prepared” warnings for snow and ice across most of Britain, with yellow “be aware” alerts for the Highlands and Northern Ireland.
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BBC forecaster Louise Lear said a band of wet weather would fall as snow as it moved south and east, with the bulk falling after Saturday teatime.
“We could see five to 10cm of snow quite quickly across central and eastern England, and maybe as much as 10 to 15cm on higher ground.”
Ice would become an added danger on the roads by Sunday morning, she added.
February, traditionally the coldest month of winter, has seen daytime temperatures plunge four or five degrees lower than average over the past few days.
A temperature of -12.4C (9.7F) was recorded in South Newington, Oxfordshire, overnight – the lowest this season, the Met Office said.
The cold conditions are likely to continue into the early part of next week.
The Local Government Association said motorists were being advised to check the latest weather and gritting updates on council websites and “gritter Twitter” feeds.
British Gas said its engineers were on stand-by in all-weather 4x4s, and the Department for Transport said Britain’s salt stocks stood at more than 2.4 million tonnes – a million more than last year.
The charity Age UK said it was a dangerous time for older people with low temperatures raising blood pressure, which put people at greater risk of heart attacks and strokes as well as the risk of flu.
In Championship football, Saturday’s games at Portsmouth and Doncaster have been postponed.
In League One, frozen pitches meant only matches at Carlisle, Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday and Wycombe survived. All League Two fixtures bar Plymouth’s with Southend were postponed.
The cold weather is expected to continue into next week
Falkirk’s Scottish Cup match at Ayr was called off and, of the league programme, only the Third Division games at East Stirling, Montrose and Queens Park went ahead.
Horse racing fixtures at Ffos Las, Sandown and Wetherby on Saturday were called off. Sunday’s meeting at Kempton will be subject to an inspection at 08:00 GMT.
Wolverhampton’s all-weather meeting was abandoned after four races because of snow.
The weather warnings in Britain follow a freeze across many parts of Europe, where temperatures have fallen as low as -30C in some parts, and scores of people have died, including more than 100 in Ukraine.
Freezing weather has led to a shortage of vital Russian gas supplies to several countries, and Italy has seen its coldest week for 27 years.
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