Thursday, January 24th 2013, 7:04 AM EST
MORE heavy snow and even colder temperatures prompted officials to last night issue a near nationwide health alert.
An intense deluge tomorrow will dump up to six inches in parts as temperatures plunge below -20C (-4F) in exposed regions.
The Met Office has severe weather warnings for heavy snow across most of the UK with northern regions expected to be worst hit.
It issued a level-3 Cold Weather Health Alert across England warning of an increased health risk for elderly and vulnerable people.
A week of wintry downpours has already left huge swathes of the country under inches of snow with lows of -13C (8.6F) recorded in Norfolk.
Government forecasters warned another six inches could settle on high ground tomorrow with four likely elsewhere.
They said bitter cold gales will whip lying snow into deep drifts leading to more chaos on the roads and transport networks.
Met Office forecaster Sarah Holland said: “The worst of the snow on Friday is expected in the North although there are showers forecast elsewhere including the South-east and London.
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“Ice is going to be an issue over the next few days with some very cold temperatures on the way, possibly the coldest so far this winter, certainly of this latest snap.”
She said a gradual turn in the weather at the weekend will see snow start turning to sleet and rain from the South.
Jonathan Powell, forecaster for Vantage Weather Services, said today will be the “calm before the storm”.
He warned the mercury could plunge to below -20C over the next 48 hours turning roads into deadly sheets of ice.
He said: “Ice is going to be the main problem for Thursday as it is going to be very cold especially in the East where windchill could push temperatures a couple of degrees below -20C.
“Friday is looking like another nightmare day in terms of snow with a sustained deluge expected across large parts of the country.
“In the South-west and West there will be a mixture of snow, sleet and rain heading towards the end of the week, leading to more icy misery.
“We are also looking at bitter cold gales, particularly across the east which could well whip up blizzard like conditions.”
The UK has shivered for almost a fortnight in the worst big freeze for two years leaving much of the country under inches of snow.
The cold weather is estimated to have killed 4,000 people while health chiefs warn the next bout could push that figure even higher.
Department of Health chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies said 1,560 people die in cold weather every week during normal winter weather.
She said: “Mortality rises 19 per cent in winter months in England, amounting to 1,560 excess deaths per week compared with the rest of the year.
“These are not people who would have died anyhow at the time. And very severe weather can substantially add to this death toll.”
Age UK director-general Michelle Mitchell said: “Winter death totals are a national tragedy.
“Every single excess winter death is preventable and represents our failure to meet the challenge of winter temperatures.”
National Pensioners Convention spokesman Neil Duncan-Jordan added: “Death totals during the current cold spell will be absolutely shocking.
“The colder the weather and the longer it lasts, the higher the number of deaths.”
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Source Link: express.co.uk