An arctic blast is expected to bring more snow and bitterly cold weather to the UK this week, with forecasters predicting temperatures could plunge as low as minus 10C (14F).
Cold winds from the north look set to bring a band of rain and high winds on Thursday followed immediately by snow across the country.
Aisling Creevey, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: “We’ve had a little bit of a reprieve over the last few days – pretty much everywhere is at risk from snow and icy conditions as the temperature drops on Thursday. And temperatures could be down to minus 10C in Scotland and to minus 4C and minus 5C across the country overnight on Friday.”
David Price, a forecaster for the Met Office, said there would be 5-10cm of snow over much of the country, with some higher areas of Scotland facing as much as 20cm.
In Scotland, supermarkets such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s had to stop taking some home delivery orders because of the cold snap, it has been disclosed.
Plummeting temperatures and heavy snow saw parts of Scotland cut off during the last few weeks and drivers stranded on motorways.
The forecasts came as rail company Southeastern, which runs some of the country’s busiest commuter routes, admitted it would “always be a challenge” to run good services in snowy conditions.
The firm, whose season ticket-holders face the biggest fare increases in the new year, faced criticism about the way it dealt with the wintry weather earlier this month. Managing director Charles Horton said: “The south-east of England was very, very badly hit by snow and ice and we were always going to struggle. If there is very, very heavy snow, we are always going to find it a struggle to provide a good service.”
Royal Mail meanwhile announced it was spending £20 million on extra measures to handle the severe weather as it deals with the busiest posting day of the year. An extra 250 large lorries will be used to transport mail and up to 3,000 more temporary workers will be recruited as part of “significant” extra resources, especially in areas hardest hit by the snow such as Scotland and the North East.
In a cheerier development, bookies slashed odds that parts of Britain could enjoy a white Christmas. Aberdeen is William Hill’s 9/4 favourite to see snow at Christmas, with Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle at 3/1.