Yorkshire braced for fresh snow onslaught

Britain was today facing a fresh onslaught of Arctic weather with airports, rail companies and breakdown services putting extra snow teams on standby.

Temperatures plunged below freezing overnight, with icy road conditions expected to affect the north of the UK this morning.

Forecasters said snow showers would return to Scotland and coastal areas throughout the day and warned of up to 15cm (6in) of snow and bitter temperatures across the whole of Britain as we head into next week.

Julian Mayes, senior forecaster at MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "We're basically looking at potential icy conditions spreading down from the north so the emphasis is on icy roads following rain.

"Tonight will end up very cold with snow showers that will affect particularly north Scotland and western coasts.

"What we're going to find on Friday is these snow showers begin to move eastwards. Going into Saturday morning, a larger area of snow is going to develop and begin to move east.

"In the early hours of Saturday morning, it will be snowing over quite a large bit of Britain and we could be seeing some appreciable snow quite widely.

"Night-time temperatures will fall to minus 5C (23F) in southern England and minus 10C (14F) in Scotland. Quite a few places may be starting below minus 10C (14F).

"Next week, it will stay cold with a further risk of snow in places."

The Met Office today issued weather warnings for widespread icy roads across Scotland, the North West and the North East, and heavy snow for almost all of the UK.

The warnings came after a brief respite from the extreme weather that gripped the country for more than a fortnight.

The Met Office said snowfall at the end of November was the earliest

widespread snow for 17 years with winds from the North Sea also bringing the worst December weather for almost three decades.

Thousands of schools were forced to close, flights and trains were cancelled, and the AA said it came close to its busiest day on record with callouts peaking at almost 25,000.

The recovery firm said it had extra patrols on standby for the return

of the "big freeze".

Gavin Hill-Smith, AA spokesman, said: "We're expecting things to be pretty busy as we start to enter the Christmas getaway period.

"As the schools start to break up from Friday, it does mean people who are having a fortnight off will start heading off and that's going to coincide with this bout of weather.

"We have got extra patrols out and we will have extra patrols on standby. We will have our Land Rovers out working as well."

Network Rail said it had snow ploughs on standby to clear any snow from the tracks.

Last week, it emerged two de-icing trains had been sent away for an annual service at the height of the previous cold spell, while there were widespread delays and cancellations across the network.

A Network Rail spokesman said: "We're not expecting anything like we had a few weeks ago. We have been monitoring the weather forecasts very carefully.

"The main issue we could be facing is ice so we are monitoring temperatures carefully, particularly in the South East where the third rail is, and that's where ice causes most problems because it stops power getting from the third rail to the trains.

"We have snow teams in place and we will be keeping equipment in strategic locations."

Gatwick Airport said there were crews of 80 airport staff and 60 contract staff on call to deal with ice or snow on the runways.

Gatwick was closed for two days during the worst of the big chill after heavy snowfall.

A spokeswoman said: "We have teams ready on standby ready to respond to any snowfall. We have vehicles checked, tested and ready to be mobilised and all stock anti-icing agents.

"According to the weather report, we're not going to experience any kind of volume of snow but it's very much centred on icy weather.

"We've also got 4x4s to pick up remote staff should we need to and we're holding regular meetings with our airport partners so everyone is prepared."

Glasgow Airport was on alert for snow over the weekend and said its snow teams were on call 24 hours a day.

A spokesman said: "We are expecting some snow over the weekend but not on the scale we experienced last week when Scotland was struck by unprecedented heavy showers.

"We have got operational teams on call 24 hours a day so at this stage, it's really a case of watching and waiting."

Flora Mewies of Ward Hadaway

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