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UK set for blizzard conditions and more snow•

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« on: February 09, 2009, 11:13:49 am »

UK set for blizzard conditions and more snow• Temperature drops to -18C in Aviemore overnight• Heavy rain, sleet and snow hit rail and roads
• Council uses table salt on roads as grit stocks run low
Damien Pearse and agencies, Monday 9 February 2009 13.23 GMT
Article history

Boys roll a giant snowball in Oxford. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Britain braced itself for "blizzard-like" snow storms today as rail operators cancelled services and drivers were warned to expect major delays on motorways.

Heavy rain was expected to turn to snow and sleet across Britain with flood warnings issued in the south of England.

Last night, temperatures dipped to -18.4C overnight in some places – the coldest in six years.

Heavy rain was today moving up from the south coast with falls of around 35mm expected in some areas, said the Met Office.

The Midlands and Wales are due to get snow this afternoon, with more expected to fall in London and the south-east overnight.

Bad weather caused Virgin to cancel a number of services between London Euston and Birmingham New Street and Manchester Piccadilly, with disruptions due to continue into tomorrow.

Lands End airport was closed and ferry services from Portsmouth were affected, said travel information provider Trafficlink.

Trafficlink said it expected lane closures on the M4, M5 and M6 during this afternoon's rush hour as the rain and snow took hold. Some roads in the Pennines and Peak District were already closed this morning and forecasters said the storm could bring up to 20cm (8in) of snow in areas.

The temperature in Aviemore in the Highlands fell to -18.4C overnight, the coldest since January 2001 when temperatures dipped to -18.6C, also in Aviemore.

A Met Office forecaster said: "In the Midlands right through to the Wash we are expecting blizzard-like conditions this afternoon – there will be heavy rain, snow and strong winds."

The snow will put further pressure on stocks of salt used to grit the roads, with one council resorting to the use of table salt.

The government has widened the search for foreign salt, with one ship bringing 6,000 tonnes of road salt from Tarragona in Spain. Other supplies from Spain and Germany were not expected until Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: "Following a government request a number of European countries have made salt supplies available to us. We also understand that the key private sector salt suppliers in the UK, and some councils, have already arranged for their own overseas shipments, which will be arriving in the UK in the coming days."

Gloucestershire county council sent out gritters with table salt to treat roads in the county yesterday afternoon. White salt, or normal table salt, is not usually used to grit roads, but the council said it had to resort to any means necessary in the weather conditions.

A six-year-old boy died on Saturday afternoon when he fell through ice on a frozen pond in Streethouse, near Pontefract. Ben Newell had been playing with his brother Dylan.

Ben was pronounced dead after being airlifted to Pinderfields hospital in Wakefield. Firefighters had arrived at the scene to find 12-year-old Dylan clinging to a large block of ice.

On Saturday, a 27-year-old man from Shrewsbury was found dead on Mount Snowdon in north Wales at the same location where two brothers were found dead last Monday. Another man was rescued after directing helicopter pilots with a lighter flame.

Multimedia mobile phone usage rose by 30% as workers stayed at home during last week's heavy snowfall. Orange said the biggest increase in data traffic came between 7am and 8.30am as customers tried to check what was happening on the roads and public transport
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