Arctic conditions leave Britain shivering as gales and blizzards sweep in (but the UK's only polar bear feels right at home)
- Met Office issues severe weather warnings for Scotland, Northern Ireland and much of northern England and the Midlands
- Forecasters warn four inches of snow will fall in next 48 hours
- Police warn motorists to take care in treacherous driving conditions
- Met office issues highest-level warning for dangerous winds for tomorrow afternoon
It may have left its arrival a little late, but winter has well and truly arrived and is about to make up for lost time.
Arctic blizzards of up to 80mph are set to batter the country in the days ahead, with significant levels of snowfall expected causing misery to millions.
However, Britain's only polar bear, 58 stone Walker, was making the most of the conditions today at his wildlife park home in Scotland. Walker was celebrating his third birthday at the Highland Wildlife Park after snow coated his enclosure.
Struggle: A lorry makes its way through the flurries of snow along the A66 between Yorkshire and Cumbria
Tough job: A gritter battles the drifting snow near Bowes, County Durham
This time last year, swathes of the country had already been covered in thick snow, causing hundreds of schools to be closed, flights delayed and widespread chaos on the roads – and forecasters are now warning of a potential repeat as conditions will only get worse as the week goes on.
Also, trouble is set for Scotland with the Met Office issuing its highest red-alert warning for winds of at least 75mph tomorrow.
Forecaster Jonathan Powell, from Positive Weather Solutions, said: ‘This is England’s first real blast of winter, with snow and strong winds expected to produce blizzards and hazardous driving conditions. Disruption is expected.’
Feeding time: Farmers in the Pennines get food to their livestock out on the snow near Brough in Cumbria
Offshore breeze: A wet-suit is a must as this man surfs in heavy seas at Longsands in Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear, as gusts of wind up to 60mph were expected across western parts of northern England
Christmas post: Suzanna Pommeraning makes sure the mail gets through while wearing shorts, despite the heavy snow in Inverness
Peaceful: Snow covered tombstones in the grounds at The Kirk of Shotts Church in North Lanarkshire
A continuing drop in temperatures means up to 4in of snow could fall as far south as Birmingham tomorrow night, while high winds are expected to hit the length of the east coast.
A spokesman said travel conditions will be ‘extremely poor’ tomorrow and motorists could face ‘significant delays’ between 3pm and 6pm tomorrow.
Gusts are expected to reach 90mph during afternoon rush hour in the Borders, Strathclyde, Tayside, Fife, the Lothians and central and south west Scotland.
Fife Police said travellers should expect the Forth and Tay road bridges to be closed to traffic. The force said high winds could further disrupt roads, with fallen trees and other debris.
Forecasters said rain showers in the afternoon will turn into snow by the evening.
Britain's only polar bear Walker frolics in the snow, his third birthday, at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig, Scotland
As nature intended: Walker enjoys a fish after snow coated his enclosure
Chief Inspector Davie McCulloch, the force's head of road policing, said: ‘Travel conditions are forecast to be very difficult on Thursday afternoon and I would urge all drivers to take extra care and only travel if necessary.
Assistant Chief Constable Allan Moffat, from Central Scotland Police, said: ‘If the weather is as severe as currently being predicted, then there will be a significant impact on the roads network with a high risk of disruption.
‘As with any conditions that can make
driving and travel hazardous, I would ask that people drive with
caution, plan ahead to ensure routes are open and safe and be prepared
for any delays or disruption that could affect their journey.’
A spokeswoman for Aberdeen City
Council said road temperatures are predicted to fall below freezing
today, which could result in a ‘flash freeze’.
While parts of the country face grinding to a standstill for the first time this winter, one extremely rare baby white reindeer should feel right at home as the snow settles.
Six-month-old Snowy, completely white
from a genetic fluke, has been enchanting children at the Victoria Farm
Garden Centre in Whitby, North Yorkshire.
Owner Mark Noble, 44, said: ‘We were delighted when we discovered her in one of the fields on our farm.
‘We have bred reindeer for years, but have never known anything like this to have happened before.’
North Lanarkshire: Scotland is facing yet more snow as 80mph winds whip through the Highlands
Born too soon: Thirteen ducklings are being cared for by staff at Mallydams Wildlife Centre in Hastings after they were abandoned by their mother
EARLY ARRIVALS: 13 DUCKLINGS TAKEN IN BY RSPCA AFTER THEY HATCH SEVEN MONTHS TOO SOON
Thirteen ducklings were abandoned by their mother after they hatched seven months early.
shells usually break in spring but RSPCA staff took the ducklings into
their care by staff at Mallydams Wildlife Centre in Hastings to ensure
they have enough food and warmth.
baby ducks were spotted at a private pond in Beckley, near Peasmarsh,
East Sussex and rounded-up by a concerned animal lover and taken to the
charity’s wildlife centre.
ducklings were just days old when they were taken to the centre and
will eventually be released back into the wild shortly before their
flight feathers develop.
Grogan, senior scientist from the RSPCA’s wildlife department, said:
'It is very unusual for wild mallard ducklings to hatch this late in the
'Wild mallards normally lay their eggs in the spring and they take about a month to hatch.
'It's possible the recent mild weather may have played a role but we cannot be sure.
most likely explanation is that the ducklings are actually a domestic
breed of duck which can produce eggs much later in the year.
'Most domestic ducks have been bred from mallards and these ducklings could be the result of an encounter between a wild mallard and a domestic duck.'
While Snowy might have few problems, motorists are being warned that night temperatures will fall to sub-zero across many parts by Friday night, bringing the risk of black ice on Saturday.
More snow and sleet is predicted to fall throughout the weekend.
Met Office forecaster Dan Williams said: ‘From Thursday evening there is a snow risk as far south as Birmingham – the furthest south that snow has been forecast this winter.
‘The guidance is for perhaps 8-10in on hills in Scotland and 2-4in at lower levels.
‘With strong winds and possible heavy snow showers, people should be aware of very difficult conditions.’
Mr Williams added that although Scotland will be hit the hardest, the cold snap is expected to swiftly travel South.
He said: ‘North-westerly winds are pulling cold air down from the polar regions.
‘Winds will be strong through Wednesday in Scotland and on Thursday and Friday morning as far south as East Anglia, with 80mph gusts in exposed areas.’
He added: ‘Saturday will see frost and widespread road ice, with wintry showers for the whole of the UK apart from the South-East.’
An elderly woman had to be airlifted to hospital in 'blizzard conditions' after she became ill in a remote part of the Highlands.
A Sea King helicopter from HMS Gannet in Prestwick flew to Mingary, near Kilchoan on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula, to rescue the 74-year-old.
The Royal Navy crew were forced to fly lower than usual at 500ft and used a combination of night vision goggles and a radar transit to battle their way through heavy snow showers.
They transferred the woman to an ambulance in Fort William, and she was taken to the town's Belford Hospital.
Lieutenant Commander Geoff Richardson, pilot and aircraft commander, said: 'Kilchoan is just a stone's throw from Ardnamurchan Point, which is not only the UK's most westerly mainland point, but is also in the extreme outer edge of our usual coverage area.
'It is a long haul flying over some very exposed water and terrain, made all the more difficult by the driving snow and rapidly reducing visibility.'
The freezing weather claimed two lives on the roads yesterday as two truck drivers died in separate incidents.
43-year-old driver was killed when his 40-tonne lorry crashed on the
M73, forcing police to close shut a busy stretch of the motorway at
Diesel spilled across the road, causing a second lorry to jackknife.
Rare: Snowy the reindeer has been enchanting children at the Victoria Farm Garden Centre in Whitby, North Yorkshire
Windsurfer Timo Mullen got caught in a severe storm in the North Sea near Redcar
'Galloping horses': This is the dramatic sight of a windsurfer's sail being ripped apart by high winds as extreme weather grips the country
This is the dramatic sight of a windsurfer's sail being ripped apart by high winds as extreme weather grips the country.
Intrepid surfer Timo Mullen had ventured out to catch some waves on Redcar Beach, Cleveland, when he got into difficulty.
A strong gust of wind blew away his windsurf before the rough seas tore through the sail.
But not before Timo had enjoyed surfing the huge waves the high winds had brought to the coast.
He said: ‘The water out there was absolutely freezing, which wasn't so nice, but it is very rare that you get clear blue skies like this along with such high seas.’
A shocked onlooker added: ‘The ocean was like a stampede of galloping horses.
‘The windsurfer was jumping away and having fun when all of a sudden a strong gust of wind snatched the board from under him.
‘The sail was then pummled and torn apart by the wind and the waves.’
A second truck driver died in a separate incident when his Scania lorry skidded off a trunk road in north Lincolnshire after driving conditions turned treacherous.
Humberside Police said the white truck, which was fully loaded with meat, left the westbound carriageway of the A160 in South Killingholme at about 4.14am.
Another driver was suffered chest injuries in an accident on the A9 near Dalguise in Perthshire, Scotland, as temperatures plunged as low as -7.7C and up to six inches of snow fell north of the border.
Police across the north of England and Scotland are warning motorists to take extra care due to sleet and snow.
As 120 gritters distributed 3,000 tonnes of salt, Scotland's Transport Minister warned of the ongoing danger facing motorists up and down the country.
Timo's windsurfer was mangled and its sail shredded as he was engulfed by a huge wave which ripped it in half
Deaths: The M73 near Baillieston, Glasgow was closed for several hours after one lorry driver died and a second jackknifed, spilling diesel across the carriageway
Turned over: This Hydro Electric truck careened on an icy road in Lewis
'We have seen a few incidents that have caused some disruption,' he said.
'That is why the Multi Agency Response Team and SGoRR remain operational.
'Our operating companies have also worked through the night, with over 120 gritters out on the trunk roads and motorways to treat every route at least once.
'We are all
working hard to keep Scotland moving and get back to normal where
disruption does occur, particularly in the North West where conditions
are the most difficult.
'We urge the public to continue to exercise care; plan your journey, listen to police advice and check available travel updates.'
Tailbacks: Traffic on the M74, southbound near Baillieston, as long jams built up caused by the death near Glasgow
Let it snow! Richard Mooney and his dog Toby walk underneath snow-covered bows near Whitburn in West Lothian after six inches of the white stuff fell overnight
ONLY ONE IN FIVE DRIVERS IS PREPARED FOR BIG FREEZE
Only one in five drivers is prepared for severe weather on the roads this winter, according to the British Red Cross.
The voluntary network, which often
deals with natural disasters, has staff and a fleet of vehicles ready to
help the emergency services if there is a repeat of last year's
Their research shows that severe weather spoiled Christmas for almost half the population last winter.
The most common problems were road closures, being unable to see family and friends, being stranded at home and illness.
Sales of snow socks, chains and winter tyres are now soaring as motorists try to get ready for a sudden onset of winter, claims Halfords.
Spokesman Martin Barber said: 'Interest in winter tyres is at an all time high thanks to a succession of particularly harsh winters and a concerted effort by the motoring media to encourage their use.
'We’ve seen a five-fold increase in the number of enquiries this year versus last.
'We sold our first set of winter tyres to a well prepared motorist in Aberdeen in September, some three months earlier than our previous record, and sales have remained consistent.'
Assistant Chief Constable Allan Moffat, of Central Scotland Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (Scotland), said: 'I would ask people to remember that both damp and snow-affected roads can hide the hidden danger of black ice, particularly in shaded areas.
'Our message is very much aimed at asking motorists to be aware of the dangers and travel with extra caution.'
The severe conditions also forced airports to close at Inverness, Stornoway, Sumburgh and Kirkwall.
caused chaos on the roads throughout the country with road closures on
the A77, the B7038 at the Kilmarnock junction and the westbound
carriageway of the Clydeside Expressway in Glasgow.
It led to school closures in South Lanarkshire, Dumfries and Galloway and the Highlands.
Billy Payne, a forecaster with MeteoGroup weather service, said: 'The snow will ease off later this morning with longer spells of rain, but that will turn back into snow.
'Cold air temperatures, which will be below zero reaching around minus three and minus four degrees, means that ice is also a risk.
'There will be significant accumulations of snow over higher ground and the rest of the week will continue to be quite unsettled with wintry showers of hail, sleet and more snow.'
But while much of the UK is gearing up for severe weather, some gardens in the south are finding daffodils blooming freakishly early.
Liz Young discovered the flowers - normally associated with spring - growing in her garden in Portishead, Somerset.
She then saw that lavender, primroses and holly were all in full bloom at the same time.
Experts have put the phenomenon down to the unseasonably balmy autumn that has 'confused' the plants into growing four months early.
The retired librarian, 64, said: 'This is the first time I have seen daffodils before Christmas. I was really amazed.
'It's a funny mix of plants in the garden now, which must be due to the mixed weather.
'We've got lavender which is usually a summer plant, and primroses which are spring, but we've also got holly - so it's all seasons in one garden.'
BOOKIES ODDS FALL FOR WHITE CHRISTMAS
Bookmakers have slashed the odds of snow falling on Christmas Day following today's weather.
Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle have all been reduced in price, while London's Heathrow Airport was also cut from 11-2 from 6-1.
'Typically we see most snow bets in and around Scotland and the capital, and although turnover is down on last year so far, we still expect to build up some sizable liabilities as we near the 25th,' said Coral's Gary Burton.
Two bets of £1,000 and £500 were taken in Coral shops in London over the weekend.
The odds of snow falling on Christmas Day for different parts of the country are...
7-2 Edinburgh and Glasgow,
5-1 Belfast and Dublin,
6-1 Leeds/Bradford, Liverpool, Manchester, Norwich, Nottingham (East Midlands),
7-1 Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff
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