Blizzard conditions that could cause havoc on the roads have been forecast by the Met Office for Saturday night and Sunday morning. Yellow and amber ice and snow warnings are in effect for many parts of the UK as the “mini-beast from the east” brings more snow showers and freezing temperatures.
“Travel delays on roads are likely, stranding some vehicles and passengers. Some delays and cancellations to rail and air travel are likely,” the Met Office said.
Traffic on the M25 was disrupted after a serious accident on Saturday afternoon between junctions 17 and 18 anticlockwise in Hertfordshire. Police stopped clockwise traffic to allow the air ambulance to land and take off. A crash also closed the westbound junction of the M4 in Wiltshire between junctions 14 and 15, Highways England said.
Snow covered large parts of eastern England and Scotland overnight, and temperatures dipped as low as -5C.
“It will be bitterly cold with some snow for many places over the weekend,” said Alex Burkhill, a Met Office meteorologist. “There are some very strong winds, meaning it could feel as low as -7C or -8C for some people.”
By the end of Saturday, most places will have seen some snow, with the potential for up to 25cm falling on higher ground in the south-west on Sunday.
More than 100 flights were cancelled at Heathrow airport on Saturday in anticipation of the snow and ice, and Highways England advised motorists to avoid transpennine roads.
The Met Office issued amber weather warnings for snow in London, south-east England, Yorkshire and the Midlands for Saturday and Sunday, with lesser yellow warnings in place for most of central and eastern England and Scotland.
“The best way to describe this is as a real return to wintry conditions,” said Mark Wilson, another Met Office meteorologist. “‘Bitterly cold’ is the best way to describe it – temperatures on the face of it probably just around freezing, but with wind it’s going to feel well below freezing.”
The warnings state that travel disruption is possible, rural communities could become cut off, vehicles may be stranded, and power cuts may occur. The cold weather is expected to last until Tuesday, when temperatures will return to their seasonal norms.
Richard Leonard, Highways England’s head of road safety, said: “Our gritter drivers will be out treating our roads around the clock, but it is still important to drive to the conditions when snow is forecast.
“Make sure you keep your distance and reduce your speed if you need to travel because, even in conditions that seem normal and when the snow is not settling, it can be slippery if ice patches have formed or where fresh salt has not been worked into the carriageway.”
Most cancellations at Heathrow were on short-haul flights, but British Airways said some transatlantic flights were affected. Lufthansa, Aer Lingus, TAP Air Portugal and KLM also made cancellations.