BRITAIN faces the worst travel chaos since the Beast from the East as snow and ice hit 50 million tomorrow – as ‘ghost trains’ and 2,000 gritters battle a -11C ‘polar plunge.’
Weather conditions colder than Helsinki saw the Met Office issue warnings for the whole of England and Wales for snow from lunchtime tomorrow in the West and evening in the East.
Up to an inch of snow is due at low levels, with up to four inches on higher ground and it is set to continue falling Wednesday lunchtime, with overnight ice.
The RAC projected 8,500 daily breakdowns – an increase of up to 20 per cent – and dispatched all 1,500 patrol teams.
RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “The worst cold weather travel chaos since last winter’s Beast from the East is expected.
“Try to avoid travelling in the worst conditions – and if you must travel, pack a blanket, shovel and food in case you get stuck.”
‘GHOST TRAINS’ TO CLEAR SNOW
Rail firms will run empty ‘ghost trains’ at night to clear snow and ice. Network Rail has 34 de-icing trains prepared.
2,000 gritters are digging into a record-equalling three million tonne salt mountain.
Heathrow Airport has 185 snowploughs on standby and Gatwick has 98 snowploughs and snow-blowers ready.
Minister for Implementation Oliver Dowden said: “Our public services are prepared for severe weather.”
MET OFFICE WARNING
The Met Office said air blown 2,500 miles from near the North Pole to Britain is set to bring the most low-level snow of winter so far.
The Met Office forecast most nights this week verging on the -10.8C coldest night of winter – colder than -3C Helsinki, Finland, – with Scotland coldest and with -6C in England.
An amber level three Government health warning – one tier below a level 4 national emergency – in the North told hospitals to expect to be busier than usual and compelled health staff to make daily contact with the ill, vulnerable and elderly.
The Met Office forecast cold conditions “certainly” for another three weeks at least.
A Met Office forecaster said: “A band of rain, sleet and snow will move eastwards through the day and overnight, bringing accumulations in some places. Snow in eastern England will gradually clear on Wednesday.
“Some roads and railways are likely to be affected, with longer journey times by road, bus and train.”
Met Office forecaster Simon Partridge said: “A straight northerly is coming all the way from north of Greenland, near the North Pole.
“Snow is likely to lower levels at times, perhaps moreso than during cold weather so far.
“-10C is certainly possible each night for most of the week over lying snow in Scotland. We’ll have to wait to see if we get -11C. England could see -6C.”
COLDEST FOR SEVEN YEARS
Lows colder than -14C were forecast by The Weather Company and The Weather Outlook, with February set to see the mercury drop even further.
A temperature colder than the -14.1C on February 14, 2016, at Braemar, Aberdeenshire, would be Britain’s coldest for seven years, since the -15.6C on February 11, 2012, at Holbeach, Lincs, Met Office records show.
The Weather Outlook forecaster Brian Gaze said: “-18C would not be a surprise in Scotland when the cold digs in.”
Leon Brown, head of meteorological operations at The Weather Company’s Weather Channel arm, said: “Well under -15C will be possible with cold air established and high pressure.”
Potential for disruptive snow
The Met Office
Crisp, sunny weather will give way to snow, sleet and gales as the Met Office issued a slew of severe weather warnings for the next few days.
The Met Office told The Sun Online: “We are looking at a fairly unsettled week with a mix of rain, snow, sleet and gales.
“There’s a potential for disruptive snow in some parts of the country, particularly in the South East area on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“In the South between 1-3cm is likely to accumulate quite widely on the ground, with up to 10cm in hilly areas such as the Chilterns.
“Temperatures will dip this week to as low as -8C tonight in Aberdeen, and could sink to -10C in Belfast on Wednesday.
“But the more widely felt temperatures will be at around -2C.”
Rural communities across the South East could become cut off and power cuts could occur.
Freezing cold winds reaching speeds of 70mph are likely to sweep across North East England, especially in coastal areas, this week.
The Met Office said that widespread rain and snow was possible on Thursday, with some severe overnight frosts in store.
For Friday the Met has predicted sleet and snow in the North as well as continued freezing temperatures bringing the risk of further snow and sleet towards the weekend.
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Exacta Weather’s James Madden said: “Next week looks like bringing further very cold weather and snow which could affect much of the country.
“Some of this snowfall could be heavy and towards the middle of next week there is the potential for some disruption due to the weather.
“We can expect more of the same through the rest of the month and through much of February.”