Commuters are bracing for ‘ice rink Monday’ this morning after the Met Office issued weather alerts covering swathes of the country and warned motorists of snow refreezing in some areas overnight, creating potentially perilous road conditions.
The UK has been blasted by arctic weather as the coldest temperatures since last winter were recorded over the weekend, with unofficial reports suggesting that as much as 30cm of snow descended in some areas.
Monday’s rush hour could see a repeat of the dramatic scenes seen in parts of the country over the weekend, with drivers forced to get out and push their cars or abandon them altogether on snow-covered roads.
Treacherous conditions also led some vehicles to spin off roads, with pictures showing a police car in Darlington, Co Durham, smashed into the front of a house on Sunday evening.
The Met Office issued yellow weather warnings for ice across much of the north of England, lasting from 5pm on Sunday to midday on Monday. Separate yellow alerts for snow in higher parts of Wales and the Peak District, as well as for snow and ice in eastern Scotland, are also in place until 12pm today.
In its warning for Wales and the Peak District, the Met Office said there could be 2-5cm of snow ‘on some roads above around 150m, and perhaps 10-15cm on roads above around 350m’.
Snow blanketing houses in Sheffield city centre on Sunday morning. The Met Office has issued yellow weather alerts covering most of northern England
The Met Office issued yellow weather warnings for ice across much of the north of England and for snow in higher parts of Wales and the Peak District, as well as for snow and ice in eastern Scotland, are also in place until 12pm today
A police car in Darlington, Co Durham, smashed into the front of a house on Sunday evening
Heavy snowfall in Cumbria brought the county to a standstill over the weekend, with motorists having to dig their cars out of the snow
A woman clears snow from around her car on the A591 in Windermere after heavy snow falls
The weather service warned that a thaw of recent snowfall in the north of England will lead to wet roads and pavements, adding that the refreezing of snow on Sunday night would create some icy patches, resulting in difficult travel conditions.
RAC Breakdown spokesperson Simon Williams said northern parts of the country could be facing an ‘ice rink Monday as snow refreezes overnight’.
He added: ‘We’re expecting some very treacherous icy conditions in northern parts, so those who have to drive should exercise great caution. If it’s possible to delay or even abandon journeys that may well be the best option.
‘Those who decide to drive should leave extra space behind the vehicle in front, reduce their speeds to give plenty of time to stop.
‘Before setting out, it’s important to allow more time to de-ice and de-mist vehicles thoroughly.’
He urged people to work from home if possible, adding: ‘There will be increased collisions and bumps and flat batteries. If you do drive, increase your braking distance and drive according to the conditions.’
Responding to the Met Office’s weather alerts, Cumbria Police Superintendent Andy Wilkinson said: ‘We are asking people to only travel if necessary.
‘Similarly, we are asking people not to visit the county today if your journey is not necessary in order to keep people safe on our roads.’
A mechanical digger starts to clear snow around abandoned cars on the A591 between Kendal and Windermere after yesterday’s heavy snow falls
A snow plough drives across the road in the Peak District after heavy snow fell overnight into Sunday morning
The force urged people to only travel ‘if necessary’ last night and to take extra care during Monday morning’s rush hour.
‘The icy conditions will be here tomorrow morning, so please if you are travelling do so with extreme care and attention,’ they said late on Sunday.
‘Drive to the conditions of the road and allow extra time for any journey you make.’
Cumbria Police said the focus of a multi-agency response to the major incident that was declared following Saturday’s heavy snowfall had moved to ‘supporting communities who remain without power’.
Met Office meteorologist Tom Morgan said unofficial reports indicated there was ‘comfortably in excess of 20cm, probably in excess of 30cm, of snow across the Windermere and Coniston area of the South Lakes and also down towards Ambleside and the far south of Cumbria’.
The RAC said it is bracing for its busiest day for a year as 35,000 breakdowns are expected on Monday (pictured taken on December 3)
Walkers approach an abandoned bus on the A591 between Kendal and Windermere following heavy snowfall
He said: ‘It was quite an unusual situation that led to it because it became slow moving and gave the same areas of south Cumbria hour after hour of heavy snow and that’s what led to the significant disruption there.’
The Met Office meteorologist said the weather on Sunday had ‘turned a bit milder in the south’, but added it was ‘still cold further north across the UK and there’s going to be some further wintry showers and ice as we go through tonight’.
‘It is turning milder later this week so there is an end in sight to the wintry weather,’ he added.
The UK Health Security Agency and the Met Office have issued amber cold health alerts in five regions, the East Midlands, West Midlands, North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber, until December 5, meaning ‘cold weather impacts are likely to be felt across the whole health service for an extended period of time’.
Cumbria police had to declare a major incident when hundreds of drivers needed to be rescued from their cars when drifts more than a foot deep blocked roads and brought down power lines.
Some reported being stranded for up to 19 hours without food or water before help came.
An abandoned car and bus on the A591 between Kendal and Windermere after yesterday’s heavy snow falls
Around 2,500 residents spent yesterday without electricity as engineers battled treacherous conditions to repair lines damaged by the shock blizzards, described by locals as the ‘worst in 50 years’.
In a post on social media, Electricity North West said: ‘Access is difficult and our teams are using 4x4s to try to reach sections of the damaged network.’
Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service (CFRS) said a multi-agency response was ongoing after Cumbria Police declared a major incident in the county on Saturday in response to heavy snowfall on roads.
In a post on social media on Sunday morning, it said: ‘CFRS have been working through the night rescuing people from their cars trapped in deep snow.
‘Please do not travel unless necessary as many roads are still affected with snow and ice.’
The Met Office said Saturday saw the coldest temperatures since last winter, with minus 12.5C (9.5F) recorded in Altnaharra in the Highland region of Scotland.
A car wrapped in police tape after it spun off the road between Kendal and Windermere during Saturday’s heavy snow falls
Another six inches of snow was expected to fall in Cumbria last night before the weather was due to improve today.
Cumbria police said ice ‘will have a continued impact on Cumbria’s roads’ today and urged people not to travel to the region unless absolutely necessary.
It came after officers, fire crews and mountain rescue teams worked through the night to rescue motorists trapped in one foot of snow in the southern Lakes on Saturday. Hundreds bunked down in schools, scout huts and church halls, or walked for hours to find refuge.
Many A-roads and the M6 – where several jack-knifed lorries blocked the motorway – were affected, and dozens of minor routes remained either closed or impassable yesterday.
Although some snow was forecast on Saturday, locals, tourists, motorists and, it seems, the Met Office were caught off guard by the heavy snowfall.
The snow-covered peak of Beinn Eighe and the mountains of Torridon are reflected in Loch Glascarnoch near Ullapool, Wester Ross
Mike Smith, 39, his partner, Sammy Tancock, 38, and his three step-children were among 100 people forced to spend the night at Hawkshead Esthwaite Primary School, in Ambleside, after being stuck in their car for eight hours.
The family had been to watch the annual Grizedale Forest Motor Rally when they became trapped.
Ambleside resident Jane Renouf told the BBC: ‘In all the years I’ve been here, which is over 50, I’ve never seen snow like it. It completely blanketed the town. It is about a foot deep.’
There were reports of people abandoning their vehicles to trudge for up to six hours home through the drifts, including one man who skied for over an hour from Ings to Bowness after traffic came to a standstill.
The man, who goes by Rory, said: ‘I just got my ski touring kit out the boot and started skiing… At the bottom of the hill a load of people were clapping. It was good fun.’
Another woman refused to let the snowy conditions stop her from getting to the shops, riding her horse to Tesco when she was unable to get her car out of her drive.
A snowy scene in Healey Nab, Chorley, Lancashire as temperatures plummeted over the weekend
Dee Ormston, from Cumbria, shared footage of her intrepid journey to Tesco as heavy snowfall hit her area.
She told Sky News that her steed, called Mary, ‘was the only all-terrain vehicle for the job’ and that ‘everyone needs a Mary’.
The rider added: ‘Parking wasn’t the best but she was well rewarded with carrots afterwards.’
Many remained undeterred by the snowy conditions – including revellers in Leeds who took to icy pavements in high heels to enjoy the countdown to Christmas.