Freezing Britain's unusually harsh winter could have cost thousands of pensioners their lives.
This month is on track to be the coldest March for 50 years – and as the bitter Arctic conditions caused blackouts and traffic chaos yesterday, experts warned of an 'horrendous' death toll among the elderly.
About 2,000 extra deaths were registered in just the first two weeks of March compared with the average for the same period over the past five years.
And for February, 3,057 extra deaths were registered in England and Wales compared with the five-year average for the month.
Campaigners at Age UK, which says 26,000 people die needlessly in winter every year, said the current weather could prove deadly for thousands more.
Director general Michelle Mitchell said: 'Colder, harsher winters tend to lead to an increase in life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks and strokes which in turn leads to a high rate of excess winter deaths.
APCs deployed on Kiev streets, emergency as record snowfall turns Ukraine into chaos
A state of emergency has been declared in Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on Saturday as the city is paralyzed by heavy snowfall and blizzard totally abnormal for March.
"Due to the deterioration of weather conditions [heavy snowfall, blizzards, snow-banks] a state of emergency is declared in the capital," the statement by the Kiev State Administration said.
The head of the city’s administration, Aleksandr Popov, said that the state of emergency won’t be lifted in the Ukrainian capital for at least a week.
“All the necessary funds from the state budget will be attracted in order to provide maximum cars for snow removal before the warm spell comes and it starts melting,” Popov is cited as saying by ITAR-TASS news agency.
BRITAIN is in the grip of the worst spring snowstorm for decades with the extreme cold set to last until Easter.
As forecasters last night predicted another 10 days of freezing temperatures, experts warned gas supplies could run out within days because of a surge in demand.
Stocks have fallen to 10 per cent and extra gas will have to be bought in from Norway, sparking fears that energy prices could rocket. Up to a foot of snow fell yesterday with more expected today. Blizzards are forecast this weekend, adding to travel chaos.
The energy crisis escalated last night after Sellafield nuclear power station in Cumbria was shut down temporarily as a precaution due to the Arctic weather.
The Met Office said further heavy snowfalls were expected overnight and this morning, with virtually the entire country at risk.
HEAVY snow is expected over the next 36 hours as Britain shivers on the coldest March weekend for 50 years
Up to 16ins will fall over high ground with several inches likely across much of the UK, the Met Office said last night.
Severe travel disruption is forecast as temperatures fall as low as -12C (10F). A band of heavy rain will start turning to snow early today with blizzards set to cause problems right through until tomorrow.
The South-west, which will escape the worst of the winter blast, faces the threat of flooding with up to 100mm of rain – almost two months’ worth – over the next 24 hours.
Thousands of gritters were on standby last night as councils prepared for the “worst winter onslaught” of the year.
Officials advised people to avoid all but essential travel and the Met Office issued a level-3 cold weather health alert.
Forecaster Helen Chivers said: “It is looking absolutely atrocious and people should be prepared for disruption with very heavy snow on the way. It is going to be central and northern regions which will be worst hit to start with, and appalling conditions are likely.
“Very heavy snow will be accompanied by strong winds and virtually everywhere should be prepared for very severe weather.
“The South-west, which may escape the snow, will see heavy rain, with up to 100mm likely.”
Jonathan Powell, forecaster for Vantage Weather Services, said despite the offi cial start of spring Britain faces the worst winter weather of the year.
21 March 2013 - Met Office forecasters are warning that heavy rain and snow are likely to bring disruption to parts of the UK over the next couple of days.
An area of low pressure is currently moving in from the Atlantic and will give heavy rainfall for southern and south-western areas. Over 60 mm of rain is possible in places by Friday and an amber warning is in force.
Pete Fox, Environment Agency spokesperson, said: "Heavy rain in south west England and south Wales on Thursday and into Friday means there is a risk of localised surface water and river flooding in the south west, the southern counties and parts of south Wales. The public can sign up for flood warnings and check the latest information on the Environment Agency's website, or follow us on Twitter at @EnvAgency."
As the rain moves north-eastwards it will mix with cold air and fall as snow. There is the potential for 20 to 30 cm of snow across higher parts of north Wales, the Midlands, northern England, south-west Scotland and Northern Ireland during Friday and Saturday, with around 10 cm at lower levels. Amber warnings have also been issued for these areas to warn about the snow.
The latest indications are that the weather pattern will continue to favor colder storms that bring snow, in part, from the Central states to the East into early April.
The pattern may translate to a longer heating season, higher heating bills and more time, money and effort into snow removal later into the season than usual in some communities. The pattern can also negatively influence some spring weather-related activities.
The long-range weather patterns from the Central states to the Appalachians and even the East Coast point toward additional storms and just enough cold air when they come calling to bring more snow and a wintry mix, despite the official arrival of spring on Wed., March 20.