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Warning of ‘extreme freeze’ as cold spell bites

Forecasters said sub-zero temperatures were expected across the UK overnight.

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People walking through snow fall in Clowes Wood, Kent (Yui Mok/PA)

People walking through snow fall in Clowes Wood, Kent (Yui Mok/PA)

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Britons have been warned of an “extreme freeze” overnight as the Met Office said temperatures could plunge even further than Tuesday’s 10-year low.

Temperatures fell to minus 17.1C in the Scottish Highlands, the coldest recorded since January 2010, when the mercury dropped to minus 22.3C.

The Met Office said wide areas of Scotland were likely to get down into double figures and sub-zero temperatures were expected across the whole of the UK overnight on Wednesday.

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Cities such as Manchester and Carlisle may drop to minus 4C, and York is expected to see lows of minus 6C.

The Met Office has issued yellow weather warnings in areas where snow and ice could cause travel disruption, covering the eastern half of England and Scotland, Devon, and south-west Wales, for Thursday night and Friday morning.

Nine flood warnings, where flooding is likely, and 88 flood alerts, indicating that flooding is possible, have been issued for locations across England by the Environment Agency, but none were in place for the other UK nations on  Wednesday night.

The forecast prompted responses from local councils in England, with residents warned to take “extra care” while the cold snap lasts.

Grahame Madge, a spokesman for the Met Office, said: “We’re going to see colder temperatures tonight, whether we get down below (minus 22.3C) I doubt, but it will probably be a bit colder than Tuesday night,” he said.

“The cold will begin to ebb away but it will be slow and quite erratic and there are still wintry hazards in the forecast.

“We’ve got potential for some more snow, heavy rain and also freezing rain.”

Essex County Council warned drivers that roads surface temperatures could reach minus 10C or lower.

A spokesperson for Essex Highways said: “We are warning drivers to go out tonight between 8pm and 8am only if it is absolutely vital.

“Essex Highways is still gritting roads… but it has a slower effect at these extreme temperatures.

“Warmer temperatures are predicted next week but we want all drivers in Essex to be safe and aware of the special circumstances predicted for tonight.”

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A man pushes his trolley through Woodbridge in Suffolk (Joe Giddens/PA)

A man pushes his trolley through Woodbridge in Suffolk (Joe Giddens/PA)

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A man pushes his trolley through Woodbridge in Suffolk (Joe Giddens/PA)

Mr Madge said next week would bring a “change of emphasis” from the east of England, where amber warnings were previously in place over the weekend.

“By Monday we are expecting that warm air to make its presence felt across the UK but up until then I think it’s fair to say to describe it as erratic as successive fronts try and barge the cold out of the way,” he said.

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He added that Storm Darcy, which caused much disruption last week, has now “definitely” moved on.

The Crisis charity has urged people to contact their local council if they see homeless people out in the cold.

The charity also advises offering anyone sleeping rough a hot drink, meal, blankets or clothing.

The NHS said that despite tough conditions many vaccination centres had remained open, and any missed appointments would be rescheduled.

Several councils in England, including Rugby Borough Council and Southwark Council, in London, were forced to briefly suspend waste collection services due to the weather conditions.

Thurrock Council, in Essex, said more than 100 workers, mostly from street cleaning and waste collection teams, were diverted from regular duties to help clear snow from footpaths and routes to medical centres.

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