No let-up from the Arctic blast

The Met Office issued a severe weather warning for Yorkshire as the Arctic blast sent temperatures plummeting to below -12c in some areas.

As the big freeze brought misery for thousands of travellers, weather forecasters warned of widespread ice on untreated surfaces.

And as thermometers even during daytime struggled to reach zero, motorists were warned to take extra care as grit does not work as effectively at such low temperatures.

On the railways, East Coast services were disrupted for a time because of damage to overhead power lines.

Motoring organisation, the RAC had by mid-morning yesterday taken 15,000 calls - double its normal volume - from motorists needing help.

A spokesman said that while snow was causing some difficulties, many of the calls were from people who could not get their cars started because of battery problems.

Yorkshire Water has seen a huge surge in customer calls asking for advice about frozen pipes, receiving about 700 calls in just 24 hours – a two fold increase on normal levels.

With sub-zero temperatures forecast across the region for the foreseeable future, the company has almost doubled its call centre staff to field the increase in calls from customers.

It has also assembled a team of volunteers to tackle the impact of frozen pipes on any vulnerable customers, such as the elderly and people who require water for medication and ensure that if required, bottled water reaches them wherever possible.

Pat Hargreaves, Yorkshire Water's customer experience manager, said: "There are a few simple measures any customer who is suffering from a frozen pipe can take to hopefully resolve the problem.

"We're advising customers to apply a gentle heat to any frozen pipes, using a hairdryer or similar heat appliance to carefully direct the heat to where it is needed, thawing the pipe at the end nearest the tap first.

"It's important a gentle heat is used and it's applied gradually, rather than a sharp extreme burst which could result in the pipe bursting. We're also stressing to customers that a naked flame should never be used to thaw pipes."

The company has also reiterated its advice to customers on how they can protect pipes in their home from the freezing temperatures, by keeping their homes heated on a low level and wrapping up all pipework, cisterns and tanks using good quality waterproof foam lagging.

DIY chain B&Q reported that across the country, it stores had seen a 245 per cent rise in the sale of pipe wrap. Sales of grit and rock salt were up by 1,224 per cent and the sale of shovels had seen a 216 per cent rise.

As many parts of the country are left reeling from a fresh battering of wintry storms, bookmakers today reported record bets on a white Christmas.

Hopeful punters staked over 110,000 in less than 48 hours on the possibility of snow falling on December 25, Ladbrokes said.

The company was offering odds of 11/10 on a white Christmas in Leeds.

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