Severe weather continues to grip the UK and cause havoc
Swathes of UK under blanket of snow
Much of the UK remains in the grip of freezing conditions as snow and ice continue to severely hamper travel.
Forecasters say the snow over southern England has eased but there will be isolated snow showers elsewhere.
Widespread ice will become the major problem, with temperatures staying well below zero across the UK.
Airports, roads and trains have all been hit by the severe weather. Thousands of schools closed and many are likely to remain shut on Thursday.
BBC weather forecaster Dan Corbett said there would be some snow showers in south-east and north-east England on Wednesday night, and eastern parts of the UK and south-west England could see up to 15cm (6in) of snow on Thursday.
He said it would be a "treacherous" start on Thursday, especially on untreated roads, as the snow begins to freeze.
There would be some snow showers on Friday, and the "deep freeze" would continue for the next few days, he added.
Forecasters predict it could drop to -20C in parts of Scotland this weekend.
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First Minister Alex Salmond said the weather in Scotland was now at its worst since 1963.
He said 45,000 tonnes of salt and grit were available there, enough for only 10 days in a normal winter. These supplies will be replenished but will be used for main roads, because more snow and sub-zero temperatures have been forecast.
Parts of Scotland and northern England had more snow on Wednesday but the worst-hit areas were central southern England and parts of the South West and south Wales.
In the last 24 hours there have been snowfalls of up to 30cm (12in) in the worst-affected counties, including Oxfordshire, Berkshire, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire and Surrey.
More than 8,000 schools closed their doors again on Wednesday, and some are planning to stay shut on Thursday.
Although many drivers appeared to heed the warnings about only making essential journeys, there were various problems on the roads throughout the day and into the evening.
Roads in the worst-affected areas are littered with abandoned and broken-down cars, and some people have been cut off due to impassable roads.
Many train operators are running revised timetables and commuters on train services out of London were being warned of serious disruption on Wednesday night.
Although London escaped the worst of the snow overnight, there were heavy snowfalls on Wednesday afternoon.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited a centre in south London which is co-ordinating the response to the severe weather. He thanked the London Fire Brigade staff and said he admired their work.
The Association of Train Operating Companies said, by 1230 GMT, 61% of trains had run on time, 34% had arrived late and 5% had been cancelled.
Air passengers are facing delays and cancellations after a number of airports closed.
Gatwick's runway reopened about 1700 GMT, having closed on Tuesday night. Some 438 flights were cancelled at the West Sussex airport.
All the shops here are closed. My husband left the house this morning to try to get some provisions from somewhere, anywhere
Heathrow, Birmingham, Luton, Glasgow, Southampton and Cardiff were open on Wednesday evening but suffering delays and cancellations. Plymouth City airport was closed.
Stansted Airport in Essex closed around 1000 GMT but reopened around midday. Bournemouth, Jersey, Bristol, Exeter and Aberdeen airports also reopened after closing because of the weather.
In various parts of southern England, coastguard services using 4X4s are helping ambulances to get paramedics into hard-to-reach areas.
Among other developments:
• Several hospitals across the UK, including some in Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Surrey have cancelled most of their outpatient appointments to focus on emergencies
• Up to 5,000 homes in Sussex, Kent and Surrey are without electricity. EDF Energy said Brighton and Crawley in Sussex were the worst affected
• An eight-year-old boy was airlifted to Nottingham for a kidney transplant after he and his father got stuck in snow trying to reach the QMC Hospital
• National Rail Enquiries have set up a special number for information about trains affected by the weather, on 08453 017 641.
• Sections of main roads including the A1, A616 and the M1 in South Yorkshire were closed
• The worst traffic jam was recorded in the morning rush hour on the A1 in Northumberland, where a 50-mile long queue built up
• All outpatient appointments and non-urgent operations at the hospitals covered by the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Trust will also be postponed on Thursday
• Scottish Power have restored power to 700 properties in the Borders, but said 20-30 remote farms remain without electricity. And a cable fault has left another 20-30 customers in the Galashiels area without power.
• Gareth Wyn Rees, 50, a part-time fireman at Harlech in Gwynedd, died after slipping and banging his head in the snow while making his way home with a colleague on Tuesday night, having attended drill night at the station.
Supplies of road grit and salt are running low, according to many councils, with only major roads being treated in several places.
Restrictions on lorry movements to and from the Winsford mine in Cheshire, the UK's biggest rock salt mine, are being eased to help meet a huge demand for salt.
At 1400 GMT, Cheshire Police said there were about 100 lorries waiting to get into the salt works, causing tailbacks in nearby towns.
SNOW TRAVEL ADVICE
If your journey is not essential, wait until local conditions improve.
If you are driving, check the weather conditions before you set out.
Listen to travel bulletins on the radio.
Take spare warm clothes, food, water, boots, a torch and, if you have one, a spade with you.
Make sure there is enough braking and stopping distance between your car and the next.
Be careful even after road surfaces have been treated with salt.
Source: Highways Agency
The UK is in the grip of its longest cold snap for almost 30 years. Snow depths taken around the UK include 48cm (19in) in Aviemore, 19cm (7.5in) at Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, and 17cm (7in) in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.
The current lowest temperature recorded during this freeze is -18C in Braemar, Aberdeenshire, on 29 December. The lowest ever in the UK is -27C.
The Met Office said between 35cm (14in) and 40cm (16in) of snow had fallen in some parts of southern central England on Tuesday night.
Wednesday's Carling Cup semi-final between Manchester City and Manchester United has been postponed, as has the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Bolton at the Emirates Stadium in London.
Horse racing has been abandoned at Southwell and Hexham on Wednesday, and Huntingdon and Ludlow on Thursday.
Friday's National Hunt meeting at Bangor has also been abandoned, as has Saturday's fixture at Wincanton and Sunday's race at Hereford.
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