BRITAIN will tackle the longest cold spell for six years with 2,000 gritters and 500 snowploughs — as a five-week chill from Europe sees ten inches’ snow and -18C (0F) forecast.
Nights are colder than -5C Moscow as the Met Office forecast cold weather, which began on Wednesday, to last another 30 days.
That would easily beat last winter’s two-week Beast from the East and fortnight-long freezes in other recent winters to be the longest coldest spell since the five-week chill from late February to the end of March 2013, Met Office records show.
Tomorrow morning -9C is due, with the -11C coldest night for a year threatening in Scotland on Sunday night.
The Met Office said scattered snow flurries are set to hit the north tomorrow, the midlands and west in midweek and east from Thursday, with London at risk.
“Significant” snow threatens from the following week, the Met Office said.
The Weather Outlook warned of the longest cold spell for six years, with snow from late January seeing six inches fall in England and up to 10 inches in Scotland, with lows down to -12C in England and -18C in Scotland.
Our public services are prepared for severe weather.
Oliver Dowden, Minister for Implementation
The RAC projected up to 4,000 extra breakdowns daily across all UK providers.
RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “This is the biggest test of the country’s winter resilience since the Beast from the East.
“Almost all gritters will be out. Motorists should pack a blanket, shovel and phone battery charger in case they are needed.”
1,500 gritters in England and 500 in Scotland are digging into a record-equalling three million tonne salt mountain.
Over 1.4m tonnes is held by English councils, with around 1.6m across highways departments and in Scotland.
Heathrow has 185 snowploughs on standby. Gatwick has 98 snowploughs and blowers ready. Around 200 snowploughs are based at other airports.
Network Rail will use 34 de-icing trains.
Minister for Implementation Oliver Dowden said: “Our public services are prepared for severe weather.”
An amber level 3 Government heat health warning — one tier below a level 4 national emergency — in the north ordered community groups to “activate community emergency plans,” told hospitals to expect to be busier than usual and compelled health staff to make daily contact with the ill, vulnerable and elderly.
A Met Office forecaster said: “It tuns colder and stays cold or very cold to February 2.
“February 3 to 17 is likely to be cold or very cold, and could be interspersed by wetter interludes bringing an associated risk of significant snow and ice, most likely in the south.”
Saturday — Cloudy with patches of rain and snow over high grounds in the north before frost and freezing temperatures tonight.
Sunday — Mostly dry after pockest of frost and fog as bright spells might develop in eastern areas.
Monday to Wednesday — More cloud and light rain with sunny spells on Monday before Tuesday and Wednesday bring cold and scattered showers, which may turn heavy and wintry.
Met Office forecaster Emma Smith said: “The continent is cold and cold air will affect us at times until mid-February, with transient fronts from the north-west at times.
“-8C lows are due on Sunday morning in Scotland, and Monday morning in Scotland could beat Friday morning’s -10.8C minimum this winter, with -7C in northern England.
“Snow flurries are due on Sunday on northern England and Scotland’s higher ground.
“Snow showers could fall on Monday over Scotland, on Monday night on the Peak District and Pennines, in the West on Tuesday and Wednesday, into Thursday in the East and even London, and at the weekend in the North-East.”
The Weather Outlook forecaster Brian Gaze said: “With computer models showing colder-than-average weather for the next month, this could be Britain’s coldest period of weather for six years, since 2013’s cold run from late February to late March.
“-18C would not be a surprise in Scotland when the cold digs in, with -12C in northern England and -10C in the south.
MOST READ IN NEWS
“With the south at risk, significant snow events are likely, with four inches’ snow likely, six inches in the north and up to 10 inches in parts of Scotland.”
Ex-BBC and Met Office forecaster John Hammond of weathertrending said: “The doors to the north and then the east will be flung open by next weekend.
“Snowfall is expected to have significant impacts across the UK as easterly winds dominate into February. Temperatures will remain below average for much of the period to February 17.