Beast from the East: Snow brings Britain to a standstill as temperatures plummet to -10C

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer
  • Storm Emma from the Atlantic set to hit Beast from the East today
  • Red weather warning issued across Scotland for first time
  • Britain blanketed in snow after temperatures plunge
  • Police forces across UK report a number of crashes 
  • Hundreds of drivers stuck in Scotland overnight

Hundreds of drivers were trapped in their car overnight and several roads across the UK remained closed this morning as heavy snowfall continues to cause major disruption for travellers.

Some drivers claimed to have been stuck on the M80 motorway between Glasgow and Stirling since Wednesday afternoon. The motorway was closed southbound between junctions 8 and 9.

The highest level of alert has been issued for heavy snow in parts of Scotland as extreme weather continues to batter the country – with another day of sub-zero temperatures, icy blasts and “blizzard-like” conditions to come.

Storm Emma, rolling in from the Atlantic, looks poised to meet the Beast from the East’s chilly Russia air – causing further widespread snowfall and bitter temperatures.

As winds picked up overnight, drifting snow caused misery for many motorists – with some parts recording accumulations up to a foot deep.

Gusts of up to 60mph could also bring “blizzard-like conditions”.

A Met Office warning – covering central Scotland, Tayside and Fife – means severe conditions are expected in those areas until at least 10am on Thursday.

Met Office forecasters wrote alongside the warning: ‘Long delays and cancellations on bus, rail and air travel are expected.

‘Some communities could become cut off for several days. Long interruptions to power supplies and other services.’

Elsewhere, police in Lincolnshire warned the A52 had become “impassable” between Boston and Skegness due to drifting snow, with even a snowplough unable to get through.

The A66 in the North East was shut between Scotch Corner and Brough, while the A628 was closed in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire between Flouch and Tintwistle due to snow and stranded vehicles.

Highways England said the A56 in Lancashire would be shut between the M65 and A680 for “several hours” to recover a crashed lorry and clear the snow.

Snow showers approach over central London as weather warnings across the country have been upgraded (PA)

The definition of a red warning is that ‘you should take action now to keep yourself and others safe from the impact of the weather’ and it cautions widespread damage, disruption and risk to life is likely.

Public Health England (PHE) has urged people to plan ahead to ensure they have enough food and medicine.

Temperatures have plummeted to -10C overnight and heavy snow has struck most of the country, closing schools and bringing misery to commuters as rush hour begins.

In Scotland, more than 400 schools have been forced to shut as the country gets braced for snow with potentially the highest level of warning from forecasters.

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Met Office advice for such alerts is to ‘avoid dangerous areas and follow the advice of the emergency services and local authorities’.

The heavy snow is set to cause more misery for travellers today after a day of train cancellations and dangerous driving conditions on Tuesday.

Police and fire services across the UK reported having to rescue stranded vehicles and deal with crashes as several more centimetres of snow fell in some parts.

Met Office meteorologist Aidan McGivern said maximum temperatures on Wednesday would be barely above freezing, feel more like -10C once the wind chill factor is taken into account.

Snow ploughs clear drifts on the sea front road in Whitley Bay, North Tyneside (PA)
Drivers battle through icy conditions in Swanley, Kent, as the weather warnings may be upgraded (Rex)
Drivers can expect traffic jams and treacherous conditions on the roads throughout the day (PA)

Several roads across the country were left impassable following heavy snowfall overnight, forcing police to close large sections of major routes.

Three people were killed in a crash in Lincolnshire and a man died after a collision in Cambridgeshire this morning.

The worst areas are Kent, East Anglia and north-east England, but problems are spreading.

Drivers are being advised to avoid unnecessary journeys and stick to major routes where possible if they must travel.

The AA received three times as many breakdown call-outs than normal on Wednesday morning.

The firm’s president, Edmund King, said: ‘We have already had more than 70 cases of drivers actually stuck in snow this morning.

‘Our patrols are working flat out to pull vehicles out of the snow and to get them started.

‘It looks like it will be a very busy day. The ‘Beast from the East’ has bared its teeth.’

The RAC had its busiest day in 10 years with 9,500 call-outs, but believes this figure could be topped on Wednesday as conditions worsen.

The breakdown rescue firm’s road safety spokesman, Pete Williams, said: ‘For drivers, the first consideration is whether your journey is really essential or whether you are able to avoid travelling during the worst conditions.

‘If you must drive, do your preparations – check local weather and traffic reports, plan your route carefully using main roads where possible and consider alternative routes in case you encounter difficulties.’

Piccadilly Circus in London seemed deserted this morning as workers stayed at home (Chris Parsons)
A driver abandoned their car on the A1 near Peterborough due to the snow (PA)
A lorry makes its way along a desolate M9 near Falkirk during a snow blizzard (PA)

Police are urging people not to travel in the amber weather warning area, which covers much of the country.

In Yorkshire, the A61 was shut between Harrogate and Skipton due to the conditions, while further north, in Durham, the A66 was closed between the A1M and A685.

The A1 in Durham was also closed between Scotch Corner and Catterick after a lorry jackknifed.

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Highways England said the A1 in Cambridgeshire had to be shut due to severe weather, between the A1M and A6121 at Tinwell.

A number of lorries jackknifed and vehicles were caught in queues for more than three hours.
In Norfolk, police also reported roads being blocked due to lorries and cars becoming stuck in the snow, including the A11 southbound at Wymondham and the A143 at Haddiscoe.

Stein Connelly, of Transport Scotland, told BBC Radio Scotland: ‘We’re seeing significant weather disruption on the network, we’ve got all our gritters out and ploughs working right throughout the day, right throughout the night, but we’re still seeing significant challenges.

‘The police are advising in the amber area don’t travel on the roads but we’re still seeing busy roads, incidents on them, cars coming off the roads, HGVs blocking and losing traction, and that stops our gritters getting out and on to the roads and keeping it clear, so the message is quite clear – avoid travel on these roads.’

One of the worst affected places in the country was the North East, with some roads being left impassable.

County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service tweeted that officers had been dealing with accidents in the ‘terrible weather’, including one involving a classic Mini which had crashed perilously close to a cliff.

The A66 in Durham was closed between the A1M and the A685, while in Cambridgeshire, the A1 was shut both ways between the A1M and the A6121.

Cambridgeshire Police said conditions had caused long tailbacks, and a snowplough under police escort was deployed to get traffic moving.

In Dartford, the A282 had to be closed temporarily due to vehicles losing traction on the QEII bridge, while in Kent, roads police worked through the night to free several lorries which had become stuck in the snow.

There are also warnings of disruption to trains, with affected operators including c2c, Greater Anglia and Stansted Express, ScotRail, Southeastern, Southern, Thameslink and Gatwick Express, South Western Railway, TfL Rail and London Overground, according to National Rail Enquiries.

While workers and drivers are struggling with the weather, it’s a completely different story for thousands of children enjoying a ‘snow day’ while their schools are closed.

Rather than broken down cars and stationary trains, kids across the UK are revelling in snowmen, sleds and snowballs as hundreds of schools remain closed.

And on member of the public made the most of the snow to leave a heartfelt message on a Metropolitan Police vehicle.

The car, parked outside an Armed Response Vehicle base in east London had ‘thank you for your service’ written across its snowy covering.

Commander Matt Twist said: ‘I was pleased to see it, and thought that would definitely lift the spirits of those officers arriving for the early shift in the dark and cold!’

Temperatures plummeted again overnight, with Benson in Oxfordshire recording a low of minus 10C (14F).

Three-year-old Wilfred Martin, enjoys sledding in the snow in Richmond Park, London (PA)
Children like these youngsters in Blackheath, London, are experiencing a much more enjoyable day as hundreds of schools remain closed (Rex)

For most places the mercury hovered at between minus 4C (25F) and minus 7C (19F).

Forecaster Helen Roberts said: ‘The capital is waking up to quite a covering of snow this morning, as is much of the east coast.

‘We’ve seen a couple of hours of really heavy snow in London, which was enough to give a few centimetres. Further north has seen even more snow, and the disruption is likely to continue throughout the morning in these areas.

‘It will also be another bitterly cold day – even colder than yesterday, with a stronger wind chill.’

Commuters in Shoeburyness, Essex, faced delays and cancellations as they struggled into work this morning (PA)

Long delays on bus, rail and air travel, plus disruption to phone networks, are likely occur throughout the day, with the strong winds also leading to the drifting of snow.

Rail companies have warned delays may continue into Friday.

Southeastern said it was planning to run a normal service but that some rush-hour services would be altered and it would look to introduce an emergency timetable “if conditions deteriorate significantly”.

Dozens of flights departing or arriving at Heathrow were cancelled, including 54 British Airways services on mostly short haul routes.

The airport has now tweeted to say it does not expect any ‘significant disruption’ for the rest of the day.

Fifty-two flights to or from London City Airport were cancelled. An additional five inbound flights were diverted, including BA’s business class only service from New York, which was forced to land at Gatwick, West Sussex.

An Aer Lingus plane after landing at Dublin airport, as heavy snow has caused more misery for travellers overnight (PA)
Driving conditions for motorists in London are dangerous and people are advised only to take to the roads if absolutely necessary (PA)

Newcastle Airport suffered delays and cancellations as snow was cleared from the runway.

Gatwick Airport said flights were arriving and departing as usual, but recommended passengers check with their airline ahead of travelling.

East Midlands Airport said it was fully operational, but that it would be monitoring weather updates throughout the day.

British Airways said the weather was likely to continue disrupting flights throughout the week.

It will proactively reduce flight schedules at Heathrow Airport “for several hours during the worst of the weather” on Wednesday.

Flights for later on in the week are ‘under regular review’.

It is expected that the mercury could plummet to minus 15C (5F) by midweek where there is snow on the ground, rivalling temperatures forecast for parts of northern Norway and Iceland.

Temperatures are set to stay below freezing for the rest of the day (Met Office)
Wind chill will make it feel even colder (PA)

While the weather is bringing Britain to a standstill, forecasters are predicting WORSE is to come later in the week.

It is expected that the mercury could plummet to -15C, rivalling temperatures forecast for parts of northern Norway and Iceland.

From Thursday, forecasters predict that another weather system, Storm Emma, will bring blizzards, gales and sleet as it meets the chilly Beast from the East.

The storm, named by the Portuguese Met Service, will move north through Europe and is due to hit the UK on Thursday and Friday, and will be ‘significantly disruptive’, bringing the risk of power cuts and transport delays.