Page last updated at 22:54 GMT, Thursday, 5 February 2009
UK prepares for freezing weekend



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Snow and ice cause travel havoc across the UK

Snow has caused major disruption to schools and on the roads, and forecasters have warned more heavy snowfall is on the way.

Severe weather warnings are in place and two walkers have died in freezing conditions in the Lake District.

More than 100 motorists have been stranded on the A38 at Haldon Hill near Exeter after the weather worsened.

The Met Office is warning that high ground in the West Country could see up to 12in (30cm) of snow overnight.

Councils say they are running out of road salt and the AA warned shortages have created a "road safety crisis".

The M4, M5 and M1 were badly affected by snowfall on Thursday and thousands of schools had to close.

The Met Office issued severe weather warnings for heavy snow in much of southern and central England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

'Eight inches' of snow

BBC weather forecasters are now warning that similar quantities of snow to Monday could fall on London and parts of southern England and south-east Wales on Friday.

Snowfall is expected from Essex through Cambridgeshire and the West Midlands as far as Dorset in the west, with at least a couple of inches expected.

In the south east, snow is expected to remain until Saturday.

The area to the north and west of London and along the M4 corridor is most at risk, with a forecast of eight inches (20cm) of snow.

The Met Office warned severe snow was likely on high ground in Bath, Bristol, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Plymouth, Swindon, Torbay and Wiltshire.

Two walkers died in the freezing conditions during the last 24 hours in the Langdale area of the Lake District.

SNOW DEPTHS
A snow plough
Cotswolds: 7.9in (20cm)
Salisbury Plain: 4.7in (12cm)
Oxfordshire: 3.9in (10cm)
Leicestershire: 3.9in (10cm)
Antrim Hills, Northern Ireland: 3.9in (10cm)
Chilterns: 3.9in (10cm)
Bristol: 3.9in (10cm)
Midlands: 4.7in (12cm)
Source: BBC Weather Centre, 1300 GMT

The body of a missing walker was found by mountain rescue teams and another walker died after falling over 100 ft in icy conditions.

The man who fell is believed to have slipped on ice on Pavey Ark in the Langdales near Ambleside. His body has been recovered by an RAF helicopter.

A 15-year-old girl broke her ankle while sledging down a hill in the village of Wickwar, South Gloucestershire, two days after a 16-year-old was killed while she was sledging in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Emergency services warned people to be careful using sledges.

Thursday saw some higher areas experience heavy snowfall. Some 20cm (7.9in) of snow has been reported in parts of the Cotswolds and Aberdeenshire.

'Woefully inadequate'

Despite predictions the bad weather is to continue, some councils have just three days' worth of grit left after supplies were "massively" depleted by the heavy snow, the Local Government Association (LGA) admitted.

Worcestershire County Council is not gritting roads but sending out snow ploughs.

County Councils in Warwickshire, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Ceredigion as well as Swindon borough council have confirmed that they are running low on salt and are only salting main routes.

Hertfordshire County Council said it was seeking additional supplies from abroad, while Cumbria County Council said it could over-spend its winter maintenance budget by 1.3m.

Derek Turner, Director of Networks Operations at the Highways Agency, said it had "three, four days of salt supplies remaining".

He said the agency would liaise with the Met Office and would be deploying 500 gritting vehicles on highways and A roads into the Friday morning rush hour.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

Paul Bettison of the LGA told the BBC's Today programme that the UK should look to importing fresh supplies of salt.

"That requires government to actually work with us all, and then we can do it as one - rather than, as we've seen, having this scrapping for what limited supplies are available."

AA President Edmund King called on the government to co-ordinate the situation and ensure salt stocks were maintained so that Britain's roads did not become "death traps".

Rosie Cooper, the Labour MP for Lancashire West, said preparations had been "woefully inadequate" and accused councils of gritting fewer roads each year.

The AA said it had answered 45,000 breakdown calls since Monday.

KEY LINKS

But Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon said storing snow ploughs and extra gritting salt would be expensive, when the snowy weather is so unusual.

Several hospitals in Northamptonshire were affected by the snow. All operations at Kettering General Hospital were cancelled on Thursday along with all out-patient appointments. Northampton General cancelled around half non-emergency procedures and operations.

Hospitals in Bath and Bristol had asked patients not to turn up unless it was urgent.

The Great Western Ambulance Service has brought in 4x4 vehicles to try to maintain their services. The East of England Ambulance Service has asked people to call 999 only in an emergency.

Meanwhile many pupils have had another day off as some 5,300 schools across the UK closed their doors on Thursday.



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