The UK has recorded its coldest March temperature since 2010, with the wintry spring conditions bringing snowfall in several parts of the country.
In the Highlands the mercury plummeted to -15.2C overnight in Kinbrace.
More snow is on the way, with a new amber warning issued for the Peak District and Pennines from Thursday, and rural areas could be cut off.
Less severe yellow weather warnings for snow and ice remain in place for areas around the UK until early Thursday.
The Met Office operates a tiered warning system, with amber being a higher level of risk.
It warns heavy snow on Thursday could mean “significant disruption” with “travel delays on roads, stranding some vehicles and passengers” and power cuts expected.
About 10-20cm of snow is forecast to fall across the area affected, with 30-40cm in some places, accompanied by strong winds.
Some evening rush hour commuters will face disruption, and the Met Office is warning power cuts are likely.
National Highways has warned drivers in the West Midlands and the East of England not to travel unless their journey is essential.
A spokesman for the RAC told the BBC there had been an “increase in breakdowns in a zone that stretched from London west along the M4 corridor and into Wales earlier [on Wednesday] morning”.
He said based on breakdown volumes it appeared many drivers had chosen to work from home instead of braving the cold weather.
“Even a little snow and ice can make roads treacherous, so we’re advising everyone who does set out to proceed extremely cautiously,” he added.
ScotRail says it aims to run a full service this week, but has advised passengers to check their journeys as disruption is possible. National Rail has also warned snowy and icy conditions could affect south-eastern services over the next few days.
The current warnings in place are:
- An amber snow warning is in place for the Peak District and Pennines from 15:00 GMT Thursday until midday on Friday
- A yellow warning for snow and ice is in place across parts of Wales, and southern and central parts of England until 07:00 on Thursday
- A yellow warning for snow and ice for the Scottish Highlands from 18:00 this evening until 10:00 on Thursday
- Another yellow warning for snow and ice in the south east of Scotland, taking in the coast from Edinburgh down to Newcastle upon Tyne, taking effect from 17:00 Wednesday until 07:00 on Thursday
- A yellow warning for just snow is in place from 07:00 on Thursday until 14:00 on Friday, taking in Northern Ireland, parts of Wales, central and northern England, and the Scottish central belt. The snow warning had earlier taken in a larger area including central and northeast Scotland
BBC Weather has said many areas of the UK will only see rain during the day on Wednesday, with heavier snowfall across the north of England, north Wales, Northern Ireland and most of Scotland more likely to arrive on Thursday.
Wednesday temperatures dropped to lows of -8C in the north of England.
Flights from Bristol Airport were earlier suspended due to the snowfall, with a number of routes cancelled.
In the north of Scotland, temperatures will stay below freezing over the course of Wednesday.
Across the hills of Wales, temperatures will remain close to freezing, while across the south of England, temperatures will come up to 2C or 3C during the afternoon – making it well below average for this time of year.
BBC Weather’s Jennifer Bartram says the cold spell is due to a change in wind direction “with northerly winds bringing cold air down from the Arctic”.
It is predicted snow is more likely to settle as the cold weather moves across much of northern England, Northern Ireland and most of Scotland on Thursday.
She said although it was not unusual to have snow and cold weather at the start of March, “this feels like a bit of a shock to the system after what was a mild and relatively dry February for most”.
BBC forecaster Simon King said there was a lot of sleet of rain across the coast and the far south of England” following the snowfall, so it was “a bit messy”.
“That will turn into snow in parts of Wales, the Midlands and the south Pennines as we go into the evening.”
To prepare for the cold spell, two old coal-fired power plants to help prevent potential shortfalls.
The plants in West Burton in Lincolnshire were due to close last September, but the government requested they stay open for an extra six months amid fears of possible power shortages.
Some ski resorts in Scotland have opened runs after the heavy snowfall, with Snowsport Scotland saying it hoped the recent weather would be “the start to another boost for the mountains”.
“Looking at the forecast, this could be our biggest week of the year,” said Alison Grove from Snowsport Scotland.
Altnaharra in the Scottish Highlands dropped to -7.6C (18F) overnight on Monday and the hamlet was covered in 12cm (4.7in) of snow – more snow than anywhere else in the UK.
In Scotland, dozens of schools have already been closed as heavy snow continues to cause disruption.
A level three cold alert has been issued by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) for the whole of England, which is likely to be reviewed in coming days.
Dr Agostinho Sousa, the agency’s head of extreme events and health protection, advised people to check on vulnerable relatives, adding that pensioners or anyone with an underlying health condition should heat their home to at least 18C (64F).
Source – BBC News