Big Freeze Tightens Its Grip On UK

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Big Freeze Tightens Its Grip On UK

Post  Andrea on Thu Jan 07, 2010 6:59 am

Britain's roads are covered in sheet ice as temperatures plunge below zero, with forecasters warning the conditions are here to stay.

The Met Office has issued widespread warnings, with motorists facing extremely dangerous roads.

A teenage boy was killed and his mother seriously injured when they were hit by a lorry in North Yorshire late last night.

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service has also paid tribute to firefighter Gareth Wyn Rees who died after he slipped and banged his head.

The North East Ambulance Service says the conditions are putting it under immense pressure.

Director of Ambulance operations Paul Liversidge said: "The driving conditions and volume of traffic on the road have made it difficult for our crews to get through to patients, particularly on residential estates."

Forecasters say the country can expect the arctic conditions to continue for another two weeks.

Sky's weather presenter Lucy Verasamy said: "It really is bitterly, bitterly cold for all of us. The ice will simply stay frozen with temperatures hovering around zero all day."

Overnight the mercury plummeted, with Benson in Oxfordshire the coldest at -17C (1F), Manchester at -13 (21F) and even central London at -3C (27F).

Seven thousand homes are without electricity in Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire after snow brought down power lines.

Engineers are working to fix the problem, but there are worries that icy roads could delay repairs.

The National Grid has issued another gas balancing alert as supplies are squeezed, but says ordinary consumers are not affected.

Sky's Amy Lewis reported from the M3 near Chertsey. She said: "It's very quiet on the roads as motorists appear to be heeding the warnings, but the RAC is still expecting around 11,000 call-outs today."

Some major roads have been affected, with the M275 in Hampshire, the A20 in Kent, the A1(M) in County Durham, and the A2628 in Derbyshire all closed.

Motorists in Wales are being warned that conditions on the M4 between junction 22 to 20 are particularly poor, and many mountain roads in Scotland are closed.

Sky correspondent James Matthews reported from the cut-off village of Pathhead in Scotland. He said: "In the rural areas people are being left largely to fend for themsleves as authorities struggle to keep up with the worsening conditions."

Supermarkets are reporting panic buying as the ice tightens its grip.

Many councils warned that their stocks of grit were running low, with councils in Cornwall and Scarborough Borough Council in North Yorkshire revealing they are using sand from beaches to grit pavements.

Sky's North of England correspondent Gerrard Tubb said: "The pavements here are absolutely full of ice. It's so dangerous, but the council can't grit everywhere."

John Riby from the Scarborough Council said: "Unfortunately at the moment I'm afraid demand for salt is outstripping supply, so we're having to prioritise."

Emergency measures to alleviate the gritting crisis were put forward to allow Britain's biggest salt mine Winsford to supply the country day and night.

Sky correspondent Michelle May said: "The mine is working flat out 24 hours a day, with 25 lorries an hour leaving to get the salt out to where it's needed. But it is getting harder and harder to keep up."

In repsonse to the salt shortage the Government has activated "Salt Cell", a central group which allows officials to instruct suppliers to send salt where it is most needed.

On the transport network rail services struggled to return to normal, with many operating revised timetables and suffering delays.

The Eurostar is running a restricted service and is telling customers to cancel or postpone their trip if they can.

A train broke down in the tunnel and had to be towed to safety just weeks after thousands of passengers were stranded inside the cross-country link because of the bad weather.

Gatwick Airport's runway was reopened last night after being shut all day with more than 240 flights cancelled, but bosses warned passengers to expect delays and some travellers were left trapped on landed planes because of the conditions.

Easyjet passenger Graham Wilson contacted Sky News Online in the early hours of the morning: "We have been sat on the Tarmac since landing four hours ago with hardly any refreshments and no information stating how much longer we will be here.

"There are about 150 of us on this plane and we are told there are at least another ten planes out here with us suffering the same fate.

"They won't offload us onto buses or get us to a boarding arm so we can get off. It's an absolute nightmare."

A spokesman for the aiport said: "There are passengers waiting to disembark. We have had to slow our operations right down for safety reasons."

Heathrow airport says it is having a similar problem, with passengers on a small number of flights having long waits to get off their planes.

Many councils say their schools will stay shut today, with around 10,000 closed across the country.

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