Severe weather warnings for almost all of the UK have been issued for Saturday, with heavy snow and widespread icy roads forecast.
Warnings of sub-zero temperatures overnight came as the big chill brought parts of the country to a standstill after the earliest widespread snow for 17 years.
London and the South East, the South West, East Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber and the north east of England were all alerted to widespread icy roads until 11am on Saturday by the Met Office. The North East, Yorkshire and Humber, East Midlands and the South West were also braced for heavy snow.
Wales and Northern Ireland were warned to expect icy roads while Scotland was also forecast heavy and drifting snow as more flurries were on the way.
Even low-lying parts of the UK saw freezing temperatures on Friday, the Met Office said. Cottesmore near Oakham in Rutland saw the mercury drop to minus 3.1C while Woodford in Greater Manchester recorded temperatures as low as minus 2.6C. Temperatures in Leek in Staffordshire were among the coldest at minus 2.5C.
Dozens of schools were closed and many roads were impassable. A plane from Lanzarote with 196 passengers on board overshot its landing at Newcastle airport. No-one was injured in the incident.
Though Scotland and the north east of England once again bore the brunt of the bad weather – with dumps of up to 30cm recorded in the Highlands and North Yorkshire – snow was also drifting across Wales and the South West.
Forecasters said the cold snap was set to tighten its grip, blanketing swathes of the country in white by the middle of next week. Some 25cm is expected to fall over higher ground on Saturday.
Aisling Creevey, of MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: “It’s definitely staying cold and going into next week, we could see a lot more snow. There is a low pressure system across the country and if it moves the way it is looking to at the moment, it’s going to be very windy, very snowy and really bitter.”
The unusual weather has been caused by high pressure over Greenland and low pressure in the Baltics, forcing cold winds from the north east across Europe.