Tuesday, January 15th 2013, 10:09 AM EST
THE big freeze last night sparked fears of a national health emergency in Britain as forecasters warned of worsening snow conditions.
Freezing winds from Russia could bring the lowest temperatures ever recorded in the UK as some areas face days of heavy snow.
The Met Office has upgraded a week-long cold weather health alert across England to Level-3 – one step below a national emergency.
It stresses that “severe cold weather” could pose a health risk to the elderly and vulnerable.
A near nationwide whiteout yesterday saw around three inches of snowfall in Scotland where temperatures had fallen to -24C (-11.2F) with wind chill.
Severe weather warnings for snow and ice across Britain today and tomorrow have been issued. Two inches of snow is likely in the East where temperatures could plunge to -10C and lows of -15C are possible on higher ground.
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Forecaster Helen Chivers said: “Temperatures will stay a couple of degrees below freezing where there is snow, or just above elsewhere. We are expecting widespread sharp frosts overnight with the chance of more snow by the end of the week.”
Age UK last night said that 8,000 extra deaths can occur for each degree drop in temperature. Director general Michelle Mitchell said: “We urge older people to take the Met Office warning very seriously and do everything they can to protect themselves from the cold. It’s really important older people keep warm and protect themselves from the cold.
“It’s also crucial that people check on older neighbours and relatives to make sure they are keeping warm and healthy.”
Councils echoed the call to watch out for elderly and vulnerable neighbours.
Spokesman for the Local Government Association David Rogers said: “We are calling on neighbours, postmen, milkmen and paperboys to help save lives by knocking on doors and reporting anything out of the ordinary.
“Just a call on an elderly neighbour who’s perhaps unable to ask for help can make all the difference.
“As well as gritting our roads and clearing snow, council teams are ready to be drafted in to provide a variety of services to help the vulnerable, from carrying out emergency household repairs to delivering hot meals and portable heaters.”
Supermarkets yesterday reported panic food buying with bread, meat and potatoes flying off the shelves.
Morrisons spokesman Neal Austin said: “Stores should remain well stocked. Each of our depots is well stocked with grit and salt so we shouldn’t have any problems getting lorries on the road.”
Experts warned the UK faces another “major snow event” and that snow, ice and freezing temperatures could last into the middle of next month.
Jonathan Powell, forecaster for Vantage Weather Services, said freezing winds could see Britain’s record low temperature of -27.2C – set in Altnaharra, Scotland, in 1995 – broken this week.
He said: “Fierce and bitterly cold winds are pouring in from the East, and this big freeze could certainly smash the record for lowest temperatures ever recorded.
“We could be building up to another major snow event next weekend.”
Piers Corbyn, forecaster for WeatherAction, said the UK faces “waves of major Arctic blasts and blizzards” until the middle of February.
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Source Link: express.co.uk