Friday, March 22nd 2013, 3:53 AM EDT
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.
Blizzards driven by 60mph gales will sweep across central and northern regions, bringing chaos to road, rail and air travel.
“Britain is on alert for what is undoubtedly going to be the worst onslaught of the winter,” he said.
“From Friday morning virtually the entire country is going to see extreme and severe weather with inches of snow on the way and strong gales driving devastating blizzards.
“This is going to last until Sunday, with the North and parts of central and western England in for an absolute deluge.”
The threat of extreme weather last night triggered reports of panic buying with winter essentials flying off supermarket shelves.
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s in Matlock, Derbyshire, said: “We’re extremely busy. Customers are stocking up and talking about buying more due to the snow.”
A Morrisons spokesman said: “It’s safe to say we’re busier than usual with people buying essentials.”
The Local Government Association said gritters and snowplough teams were out in force to keep roads as passable as possible.
Peter Box, chairman of the association’s Economy and Transport Board, said: “Council websites will be updated with information on weather, gritting routes, road conditions, school closures and bin collections.
“Leaflets have been sent to homes advising people about council services, driving in the snow, where grit bins are and how to clear their pavements.
“Council staff will be out and about over the next few days checking on the people they know to be vulnerable and delivering hot meals and portable heaters, collecting prescriptions, defrosting pipes, fixing frozen boilers and making sure they have what they need.”
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Source Link: express.co.uk