Commuters have been warned to expect major disruption as snowfall looks poised to blanket Britain, with the country potentially facing the coldest weather since 1991.
The Met Office said more than 20cm of the white stuff could settle by Wednesday as a wintry blast, dubbed the “Beast from the East”, will cause temperatures to tumble.
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Issuing amber warnings for snow showers on Tuesday morning – covering the South East, the East Midlands and the North East – the forecaster said up to 15cm could fall in just a few hours.
A yellow warning was also put in place for vast swathes of the UK – with the snowfall predicted to cripple much of the country’s travel network during rush hour.
Met Office forecaster Marco Petagna said there will be some “quite treacherous driving conditions” due to the snow as many make their way into work.
“Most people will have to travel, but if you don’t have to travel – it is best to try to avoid if you can within those amber warnings,” he said.
Mr Petagna said an amber snow warning is also in place for the North East and Scotland – from 6am on Wednesday to 12pm on Thursday – with up to 40cm of snow expected to fall during that period.
Forecaster Frank Saunders said parts of the country could see their “coldest spell of weather since at least 2013, and possibly since 1991”.
Mr Petagna said daytime temperatures will “struggle to get above freezing” across many areas.
“Add on the effect of that wind, and the wind is going to pick up come Wednesday, so it is going to start to feel even colder still,” he added.
It is expected that the mercury could plummet down to -15C by midweek where there is snow on the ground – rivalling temperatures forecast for parts of northern Norway and Iceland.
Many local authorities said they were ready to react to the adverse conditions, with Kent County Council even stating all resources would be focused on keeping highways clear.
On Monday British Airways cancelled more than 60 short haul flights either departing or arriving from London Heathrow in a bid to protect punctuality.
And ahead of Tuesday’s snowfall, many airports were advising passengers to check with their airlines before travelling.
Greater Anglia also ended services early to enable trains to return to depots and stations early on Monday, as the provider said limited timetables would be in place on Tuesday – with 200 trains cancelled.
Network Rail revealed it would also be putting heaters and Nasa-grade insulation on to points on the tracks in a bid to prevent ice forming overnight.
The NHS could also struggle to cope with the extra strain caused by the wintry weather, doctors have warned, and people have been encouraged to check on elderly or vulnerable neighbours.
The public have also been asked to look out for the homeless and report anyone sleeping rough in the freezing conditions to their local council.
From Thursday forecasters predict that another weather system, Storm Emma, will bring blizzards, gales and sleet as it meets the chilly Beast from the East later this week.
The storm, named by the Portuguese Met Service, will move north through Europe and is due to hit the UK on Thursday and Friday, and will be “significantly disruptive”, bringing the risk of power cuts and transport delays.