-London and the Home Counties experience their first snow of the winter
-Snow hits Wales, the Midlands and South East England
-Heavy rain in other parts leads to 33 flood alerts
By Richard Hartley-parkinson
GATESHEAD: The Angel of the frozen North was covered in snow from a leaden sky
Christmas shoppers are being warned of black ice making driving treacherous for the whole weekend as the big freeze takes hold.
Bookmakers have slashed the odds on a white Christmas with temperatures set to remain below zero across much of the country in what is expected to be the coldest snap of the winter so far.
The Met Office issued an ice warning until Monday and predicted wintry showers on what is traditionally the busiest pre-Christmas shopping day of the year.
BUCKS: An elderly woman peers out from a bus shelter as dog walkers make their way through heavy snow fall in High Wycombe
ESSEX: Difficult conditions in the roads in Saffron Walden who had to tackle snow-clogged roads in blizzard conditions
GLOUCS: Exercising the pets on Birdlip Hill near Cheltenham was certainly a fresh experience with a firm dollop of snow
CUMBRIA: A young boy takes it easy as his father pulls his sled at Derwentwater near Keswick
The country awoke to a frosty morning today, after snow fell across large swathes of Britain yesterday, with up to three inches in some areas. The weekend is expected to be brighter but bitterly cold, with widespread frost and snow showers expected in westernmost parts of Britain, the north of Scotland and east England coasts.
The cold snap has led to bookmakers slashing the odds of a white Christmas, with Ladbrokes offering a 3/1 chance that London will have snow on December 25, and 9/4 for Edinburgh and Glasgow.
The North may go as low as -6c today, with -1c expected in the south of England and Wales.
And in the country's first truly wintry weekend, tomorrow is expected to bring snowy showers in western areas and across the far north of Scotland.
Elsewhere, it will be cold with sunny spells, but a scattering of wintry showers will move south-eastwards across the Midlands and southern England through the morning, with a possibility of a few showers clipping North Sea coasts.
But commuters will be relieved to hear that the weather is expected to turn milder on Monday, with rain spreading eastwards across the UK, falling as snow and sleet over high ground in northern England and Scotland.
The rain will clear by the afternoon leaving the country mainly dry with sunny spells and Tuesday will be mainly dry but overcast, with rain in the north of England.
Clare Allen, of Meteogroup, said: 'We've been experiencing snow mainly over higher ground, in Wales, Scotland, the Pennines, the Lake District, but it's wet and sleety snow so is not settling," she said.
'The rest of the country is expected to remain very cold with widespread frosts and everywhere below zero, apart from the South West.
'There will be some more wintry showers, mainly in the north and west, with hail, sleet and snow expected in Scotland and northern England.'
The Highways Agency said it has 500 winter vehicles on standby, and enough salt to deal with severe conditions.
There were a dozen accidents across Gloucestershire last night and this morning, with police warning drivers to be careful following reports of black ice and treacherous conditions.
In the Forest of Dean a Vauxhall Astra smashed into a bus stop at 6.15am and a 36-year-old man was taken to Gloucestershire Royal Hospital.
Three vehicles collided in the Cotswolds, but no one was injured, while a driver flipped their BMW in Cirencester and was treated for minor injuries at the scene.
There was a five-car crash on an icy stretch of the A41 dual-carriageway, near Kingswood, Buckinghamshire, just before 9am, according to Thames Valley Police.
A man and woman were mildly injured, a police spokesman said.
The road was closed to allow recovery of the vehicles, which included two BMWs, two Ford Kas and a Toyota Corolla.
The spokesman said: 'Officers on the scene have reported the road is icy and driving conditions are treacherous. Drivers are warned to take extra care when driving in the area.'
Cumbria Police yesterday said they were called to a number of incidents on the A595 at Moota where motorists slid off the road.
A spokesman said drivers should check the forecast and leave extra time for their journeys if necessary. He added: ‘They are also advised to carry warm clothing and an emergency pack, which includes food and water, boots, de-icer, a torch, and a shovel in case of snow.’
Met Office forecaster Sarah Holland said: ‘Temperatures will be below freezing in many parts, especially on Saturday night, with frosty mornings.
‘Only South-West England will be a little milder, with temperatures hovering above freezing overnight.
‘The main risk is now on the widespread ice warnings, with the chance of wintry showers adding to that risk. If people are heading out, they need to be aware of the possibility of ice and take extra care.’
There were over two inches of snow in Glasgow yesterday and half an inch fell in Essex and Buckinghamshire. There were flurries across the West Midlands, mid-Wales and Shropshire.
Elsewhere there were heavy downpours as more than one-and-a-half inches of rain hit parts of the South and 70mph winds battered coastlines, whipping up huge waves.
The Environment Agency had 34 flood warnings in place, mainly in the South, Midlands and North-West.
In London and the South East the day started off damp and miserable but by 8am rain had already turned to a light snow, although it failed to lie in the capital.
A low pressure system has helped push the white stuff towards the South East and as far as Kent mixed with high winds and gales.
Taken snow pictures today? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
A couple enjoy a walk through Buxton, Derbyshire, after it received a heavy snowfall
A commuter, who could perhaps do with buying a winter coat, makes his way through snow at Tring railway station in Hertfordshire
The snow brought a mystical atmosphere to this church in Tring, Hertfordshire, today
Tring train station remained open in Hertfordshire after about an inch of snow fell there today
Workers in Gateshead battled their way through heavy snow today as traffic built up and came to a halt
A woman walks her dogs in the beautiful setting of Patterdale, Cumbria
Trudging: A mother and son wrap up warm as she takes him to school in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire this morning
Motorists such as this one in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, battled through heavy snow as much of the UK awoke to the first widespread covering this morning
Hope Thomson, six, from the Scottish borders had to use a step ladder to create her huge snowman today
There were flurries on the Scottish border and down the North West side of the Pennines while the North East remained largely dry with thick fog this morning.
Those that missed the snow were hit by torrential downpours, leading the Environment Agency to put 34 flood alerts in place in the North West, West Midlands, and all of southern England.
In Chichester the wet weather led to delays on the A27 because there was so much water on the roads.
Andy Page, chief forecaster at the Met Office, said: 'Snow, heavy rain and strong winds are all expected to affect parts of the UK over the next day or so, bringing hazardous conditions at times.'
The Met Office has also forecast colder-than-average temperatures for the weekend.
Three inches of snow is predicted to blanket the Midlands and Wales today and the South East is expected to see around half an inch.
Glasgow recorded 6cm of snowfall overnight while in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire there was 2cm and Northern Ireland had 4cm.
Schoolboy, Tom Selwyn, takes part in some sledging in Tring, Hertfordshire, on a day off school
Cold play: Two-year-old Ethan Woodley enjoys the snow in Whitburn, Scotland
A farmer does his bit for his community in Overwater, Cumbria, by clearing several inches of snow from the road
Buxton's Pavilion Gardens are a pretty sight at the best of times but with the addition of snow the place looks even more magical
Train passengers wait amid wintry scenes in Monkseaton, North Tyneside
It is expected to stay cold throughout today with the highest temperature of 5C in London.
In the capital, Transport for London has said it has more than 100,000 tonnes of salt to keep roads clear using a fleet of 40 gritters, gritting quad bikes, flat bed trucks, and teams of grit layers.
London Underground and London Rail also have winter weather plans in place to keep commuters moving across the capital.
A storm that battered the south coast last night with winds of up to 70 mph brought the snow with it as it moved north up the country.
Daytime temperatures over the weekend are expected to range between 3c and 6c (between 37f and 43f). Heavy frosts are expected overnight with the mercury plunging to -4c (25f).
Children in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire enjoyed the snow on their way to school this morning
The beautiful scene over Uttershill in Penicuik, Midlothian, continues to be topped up with fresh dustings of snow
Police advised drivers to ensure they have plenty of fuel, fully charge their mobile phones and carry warm waterproof clothing, food, water and a torch.
Met Office chief forecaster Anthony Astbury said: ‘The unsettled weather over the next few days could bring a range of hazards across the country, from snow and ice to heavy rain and strong winds.
‘We’re working closely with Government agencies to keep them up to date with the latest information.’
The country has been battered by bad weather for a week.
On Monday high winds and heavy rain hit England and Wales.
One man had a lucky escape when a tree smashed into his bedroom while he was asleep in Winchester, Hampshire.
Last Thursday a storm left thousands of homes without electricity in Scotland and caused widespread school closures.
Homes were evacuated and left without power, roads were closed, ferries cancelled and flood warnings were put in place as winds of more than 100mph swept in.
On Wednesday snow coated the ground as far south as Exmoor in Devon and continued to sweep across large parts of the North, as well as Scotland and Ireland.
Yesterday saw significant falls in Yorkshire and Derbyshire.
Dan Williams, Met Office forecaster said: 'We are looking at some fairly suppressed temperatures by Friday of about 39f (4c) as the top temperature.
'It's a similar story for Saturday, and overnight it will be 32F (0C) with some places going down to 30.2F (-1C).
'It is slightly below average for this time of year. The maximum average during the day for December is 44.6F (7C).'
Salt levels for councils across the UK came dangerously close to running out last winter as temperatures plummeted to record lows for prolonged periods of time.
However, stock levels are at double those of last year thanks to a mild start to the winter.
Traffic comes to a standstill in Gateshead as blizzards continue to make walking and driving treacherous
This snowy picture was taken in Monkseaton as a Metro train pulled out of the station earlier today
Cars take it slowly through Monkseaton as snow and slush continue to make treacherous snowy conditions
In Manchester's Southmill Street, there were thick snow showers this morning, but it struggled to stick
Much thicker levels of snow fell in Whitburn, West Lothian, where Stacey Johnstone was pictured taking a walk today
Some have reported an increase in the amount they have in stocks.
In the East Midlands and North West, authorities have two and a half times more salt than they did a year ago.
Across the UK there is currently an increase of 163 per cent year on year with just over 1million tonnes available in the run up to Christmas 2010 compared to the current 2.7million tonnes.
In Scotland, which used 645,000 tonnes last year, local authorities have used just over a sixth of the amount of salt it used last year and has another 107,000 tonnes on order to add to its current supply of 602,000 tonnes.
North of the border has this winter experienced its worst storms for a decade and calls to traffic hotlines increased by 1,500 per cent.
Transport Scotland said it had also learnt more from last year's prolonged winter ordering more specialist equipment and increasing the number of gritters on the roads.
Local Transport Minister Norman Baker said: 'The Government and transport operators have taken significant action to ensure that the country will enter this winter season well prepared.
'It's estimated that the country currently holds salt stocks of over 2.7 million tonnes, including strategic stockpiles, as we enter the winter period – which is around one million tonnes more than last year.
A fire engine edges its way past a petrol station along the A184 in Boldon, South Tyneside
At Flash, which claims to be the highest village in Britain, Lynsay Jackson warms up with a drink while her dog Ty keeps warm in a festive jacket
'It's important that local authorities continue to play their part over the winter period and treat their winter service planning as an integral part of wider general resilience planning.
'It's vital that they give the priority required to winter services, including stocking up on road salt supplies and to regularly communicate with their local community about their preparations and how they are managing their network during any cold spell.'
High winds have beached a cargo ship called the TK Bremen off France's Atlantic coast and some of the 220 tons of fuel in its hold is leaking, threatening a local beach.
Officials in the Morbihan region said the ship's 19-man crew was evacuated by helicopter early today as their vessel ran aground 109 yards from shore.
The statement says the one-kilometre-long strip of fuel was heading to Erdeven beach in Brittany in north-western France.
Rescuers pumped fuel from the cargo hold of the Maltese flagged ship in a bid to empty it.
The French electric company says some 370,000 homes were without electricity as winds of up to 81 mph blew across France, triggering alerts in numerous regions.
People were warned to stay indoors.
A French gendarme stands looking at a cargo ship after it ran aground off the Brittany coast amid 80mph winds
The crew of the TK Bremen had to be winched off the vessel by helicopter. Fortunately nobody was injured during the grounding
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Life in the freezer! After the snow, drivers warned of ice menace and odds are the white stuff will be back for Christmas
-London and the Home Counties experience their first snow of the winter