Andrew McCorkell – The Guardian December 27, 2010
Snow and icy conditions are expected to return tonight as today’s sunshine and double digit temperatures are replaced by winds that will reprise the bitter cold experienced by most of the country in the runup to Christmas.
Severe weather warnings were issued last night for much of Scotland and Northern Ireland, and heavy snow, sleet and rain is expected to spread north-eastwards across the country, causing more disruption on the transport network.
By Tuesday morning the east, northwest, Yorkshire, West Midlands, London and the south-east are forecast to receive up to 15cm of snow – returning large parts of the country to the big chill that has made December the coldest on record.
Bookies escaped a huge payout over Christmas. Punters had bet £600,000 – making it the biggest white Christmas bet recorded in this country – but the Met Office, which uses the fall of single snow flake as a definition, only recorded a white Christmas in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Albemarle in the north-east, Church Fenton in Leeds and Waddington in Suffolk.
It proved to be a freezing Christmas Day with temperatures as low as -18.2C in Altnaharra in Scotland overnight, and Castlederg in Northern Ireland at a record low of -17.1C at 9am on Christmas morning.
Michael Lawrence, the Met Office’s national forecaster, said: “There’s a more definite and widespread band coming eastward on Tuesday, so the cold weather will return very late on Monday. As it progresses east it will fall into colder air and will turn more readily to snow.”
“The double figure temperatures look to be moving out of the way and they are being replaced by increasing southerly winds and fronts approaching from the west.”
Warnings over widespread icy roads and heavy snow were issued again yesterday across much of the UK including the north, Yorkshire, London and the south, the Midlands, Wales and Scotland.
The Met Office said there will be a continued risk of snow, which could be heavy at times and accompanied by drifting in strong winds which will spread erratically eastwards throughout the day.
The Met Office said last week that December 2010 is “almost certain” to be the coldest since records began in 1910.
The AA warned even salted roads will become perilous if temperatures fall below -10C: “Some of the cold has got down to below -10C, where you are moving into an area where salt water freezes, which means even a treated road can be untreated. Don’t think you can go sailing into a corner because a road has been salted, because it just doesn’t work like that. Your car thermometer may be telling you what the temperature is, but it does take a while to adjust.
“We are reminding people of the need to keep warm when they are out. What happens is not that you are caught in a snow drift these days, you get behind a jack-knifed lorry or a car that’s broken down and spend a very long time sitting very still, waiting to get rescued. Make sure you are wrapped up warm, fed, with a full charged telephone battery before you leave. Then you can always stay in touch with people and tell them what has become of you.
“Obviously make sure your car is in good condition before you leave, make sure your windscreen water bottle is full of de-icer, and check on your battery.”
Network Rail admitted that the past two weeks have been extremely tough, with workers having to endure harsh conditions. “It’s been that way for some parts of the country for a couple of weeks and it has been tough, certainly for our guys who have to go out and work in those temperatures,” she said.
Last night, hundreds of flights in the US were cancelled after heavy snowfall along the east coast of America. British Airways and Virgin are among operators cancelling services from the UK to a number of destinations in the US, including New York.
“The next couple of days are bank holidays so most of the train operators will be running a Saturday or Sunday service. We will continue with our preparations, again, ghost trains will be out tonight, our guys will be at critical junctions and we will have point heaters. We will be doing everything to keep the network open as we have before. The best advice is to check before you travel.”
The freezing weather also wreaked havoc with Boxing Day sporting fixtures. Two Premier League and two SPL matches were postponed, while a total of just nine games survived in the Championship, League One and League Two.
All of yesterday’s race meetings were victims of the weather, including the King George VI Chase at Kempton.