Page last updated at 23:20 GMT, Monday, 5 January 2009

More Arctic temperatures to come


Snow and ice brought fun to some, problems for others on Monday

The New Year Arctic weather has brought sub-zero temperatures and disruption to many parts of the UK, and more freezing conditions are expected overnight.

Roads and schools have been affected, and some flights were hit at Birmingham and Luton airports.

Temperatures in some areas plummeted as low as -8C (17.6F) and were expected to hit -10C (14F) overnight, BBC weather forecaster Peter Gibbs said.

Pensioners have been warned to take extra precautions to stay warm.

Parts of northern Scotland experienced the lowest temperatures on Sunday night at -8C, parts of Oxfordshire saw -7C (19.4F), and Wales and south-east England recorded -5C (23F).

"It felt particularly cold across England and Wales because of the strong wind from the North East - Arctic air originating from Russia and Scandinavia," said Mr Gibbs.

School closures

Flights were suspended for 90 minutes at Birmingham International Airport early on Monday, but the runway has reopened.

Snow meant the runway had to be closed at Luton Airport for a similar length of time, leading to some flights being diverted.

In Wales, a number of roads and schools were affected and the drop in temperatures saw a rise in the number of people treated in hospitals for falls on ice.

The start of the new term was delayed for some pupils in Gloucestershire where 15 schools were closed. Some schools in Kent were also shut.

Meanwhile, in Lincolnshire a 30-year-old woman was killed when her car ended up in the path of a train at a level crossing during the icy conditions.

With predictions of more snow and freezing temperatures this week we are urging vulnerable older people... to take extra precautions to stay warm
Gordon Lishman
Age Concern

The AA expected to be called to more than 20,000 motoring breakdowns by the end of Monday.

"The cold weather has combined with the return to work and schools making it a very busy day - most of the extra workload is home starts with flat batteries being the most common call-out," an AA spokesman said.

On Monday, motoring organisations reported a 100% increase in the number of call-outs they had to go to.

Gritters are out on roads across the UK spreading thousands of tonnes of salt overnight.

Forecasters say it is expected to get even colder on Monday night, with temperatures hitting -10C in some places.

But that is still a long way off the record low of -27C (-16.6F) in northern Scotland 14 years ago.

The Met Office has issued an advance weather warning for parts of south-east England, with icy conditions expected.

The Welsh Valleys, the West Midlands and north-west England will also be badly affected, the BBC Weather Centre said.

Vulnerable people

Pensioners have been advised to take extra precautions to stay warm during the icy spell.

Age Concern's director general Gordon Lishman said: "With predictions of more snow and freezing temperatures this week we are urging vulnerable older people, who are more susceptible to the cold, to take extra precautions to stay warm and keep active."

Some 5bn of benefits were still going unclaimed despite some of the poorest pensioners struggling to afford essentials such as food and heating, he added.

The government said 2.5 million cold weather payments had already been made.

The current cold period is expected to ease later in the week.

The BBC Weather Centre said Scotland would experience a milder day on Tuesday, with the cloudier weather then spreading to the rest of the UK.

"It will get less cold," said Mr Gibbs. "By the end of the week we will reach 4C (39.2F) to 6C (42.8) - but still below average for most of us."

Pensioners worried about high energy bills can call Age Concern's free helpline on 0800 00 99 66 for advice.

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