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Flights grounded as the Beast from the East bites

Heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures are causing travel disruption and shutting schools across the country this morning as the wintry weather continues throughout rush hour.

Roads across the UK have already seen a blanketing of snow, with police forces reporting treacherous driving conditions and blocked routes as the country is hit by Siberian air dubbed the ‘Beast from the East’.

Highways England said the M20 in Kent had become blocked by a ‘number’ of stranded lorries overnight, while the A249 was shut due to a crash. Meanwhile shelves at an Asda in Gillingham, Kent, have been cleared of bread.

A car travels through snow this morning in Ashford, Kent, as the severe weather causes travel disruption across Britain

Heavy snow hits the North East of England during the early hours of this morning as roads in Teesside become treacherous

Heavy snow hits the North East of England during the early hours of this morning as roads in Teesside become treacherous

Snow falls on the M62 motorway in West Yorkshire this morning as the 'Beast From The East' moves into Britain

Snow falls on the M62 motorway in West Yorkshire this morning as the ‘Beast From The East’ moves into Britain

A man sweeps snow from his car in Tonbridge, Kent, this morning as parts of the county are hit by the white stuff this week

A man sweeps snow from his car in Tonbridge, Kent, this morning as parts of the county are hit by the white stuff this week

A pedestrian walks in the road as cars are covered in snow in Liverpool this morning after it fell in the city overnight

A pedestrian walks in the road as cars are covered in snow in Liverpool this morning after it fell in the city overnight

Empty bread shelves at an Asda supermarket in Gillingham, Kent, last night as the bitterly cold air arrives in Russia

Empty bread shelves at an Asda supermarket in Gillingham, Kent, last night as the bitterly cold air arrives in Russia

Twin brothers David (left) and Russell Hall take their sledges out in the snow today at Avenham Park in Preston, Lancashire

Twin brothers David (left) and Russell Hall take their sledges out in the snow today at Avenham Park in Preston, Lancashire

Dangerous conditions  on the roads in the North East today, including on the A19 in Teesside

A lorry in Hartlepool today

Dangerous conditions on the roads in the North East today, including on the A19 in Teesside (left) and in Hartlepool (right)

A layer of snow has been left on Hove in East Sussex this morning as the South East of England faces severe conditions

A layer of snow has been left on Hove in East Sussex this morning as the South East of England faces severe conditions

A boy plays in the snow in Manchester

A man walks his dog in the snow in Manchester

A boy plays in the snow (left) and a man walks his dog in Manchester this morning (right) as the area is hit by severe weather

Cars travel in Liverpool today as roads see a blanketing of snow with police forces reporting treacherous driving conditions

Cars travel in Liverpool today as roads see a blanketing of snow with police forces reporting treacherous driving conditions

Parts of Britain are forecast to feel as cold as -15C (5F). Areas around Harrogate and Craven were also particularly treacherous, according to North Yorkshire Police.

The Met Office said several centimetres of snow had fallen in some parts over the night – with 1cm (0.4in) in Kent by 5am, and between 3cm (1.1in) and 4cm (1.6in) in Newcastle and Northumberland.

Roads, rail and air travel affected by heavy snow

Transport services have been hit by the snowfall overnight, with disruption on the roads, to flights and to trains. Here are the latest reported issues:

Roads

  • The A249 in Kent is shut due to a crash, between J7 (M20) and J5 (M2)
  • A1231 near Sunderland is blocked by an overturned lorry near the A182.
  • Snow and ice affecting most roads in North Yorkshire with areas around Harrogate particularly treacherous
  • A19 North Yorkshire shut after crash

Trains

  • Southeastern cancels dozens of trains from Kent into London, including several to St Pancras, Victoria and Cannon Street
  • Greater Anglia running a limited service between Norwich /Ipswich and London/Cambridge. No trains between Norwich and Lowestoft, Felixstowe and Great Yarmouth
  • Fewer Great Northern trains running between Kings Lynn and Cambridge; running hourly instead of half-hourly
  • Great Northern services between Kings Cross and Ely are cancelled
  • Southern running hourly service on London Bridge to Uckfield line, and a shuttle from Redhill to Tonbridge
  • TfL Rail trains only started at 7am today, and only a limited service of six trains per hour between London Liverpool Street and Shenfield
  • c2c operating a limited timetable

Flights

  • British Airways has cancelled dozens of flights from Heathrow Airport
  • easyJet expecting disruption to some flights and advises customers to check before they travel 

There were contrasting emotions in Britain’s households as some children were told their schools were closed and others were informed they would have to go in.

At least 55 schools, including primaries and secondaries, have closed in Kent, and at least 14 in Essex as well as others in counties around the UK. 

Suffolk county council’s website crashed under the weight of people trying to access its school closure list.

The closures create a headache for parents, who have to scramble to arrange childcare or not go into work themselves.

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “Schools should stay open if they possibly can but safety concerns are the most important.

“If it’s not safe for the school to be open then it is fine to close.

“You have to take into consideration journeys at the beginning and the end of the day, as conditions may change whilst the school is open.

‘It is important that staff and parents can get home at the end of the day as well.”

Heavy showers were continuing throughout the morning and are expected to cripple much of the country’s travel network.

Trains have also been affected by the snowfall, with cancellations and disruptions on lines across the country.

Southeastern, which operates in Kent, has cancelled dozens of trains, including several to London St Pancras, London Victoria and Cannon Street.

Other railway operators affected include Southern, Greater Anglia and Great Northern.

British Airways has cancelled several flights from Heathrow Airport, while easyJet warned disruption to its flights was expected. 

School closures were also likely. Police forces across the UK have reported a number of crashes on the roads as driving conditions worsen.

Lincolnshire Police tweeted that they were already dealing with five collisions by 6.30am this morning and said roads were ‘particularly hazardous’.

Merseyside Police urged people to take care while driving, and said the force had received reports of a crash on the M62 just before junction 5.

And the North West Motorway Police tweeted that it was on the scene of a crash on the M6 eastbound at junction 5 after a car span across all three lanes and hit a tree. 

This graphic shows how the ‘Beast from the East’ is sweeping in from Russia, with cold air being drawn in from the Eurasian landmass that is bringing sub-zero temperatures and snow to Britain and many other countries in mainland Europe 

Britain woke up to sub-zero temperatures this morning (left) with many parts of the country covered in snow today (right)

A man walks through the snow in Tonbridge in his shorts this morning after snow fell in the Kent market town overnight

A man walks through the snow in Tonbridge in his shorts this morning after snow fell in the Kent market town overnight

A cyclist makes his way through the snow this morning at Avenham Park in Preston, Lancashire

A cyclist makes his way through the snow this morning at Avenham Park in Preston, Lancashire

A man clears his windscreen in Liverpool following heavy overnight snowfall which has caused disruption across Britain

A man clears his windscreen in Liverpool following heavy overnight snowfall which has caused disruption across Britain

A member of the Brighton Swimming Club in East Sussex braves the snow and cold water to take part in the daily swim today

A member of the Brighton Swimming Club in East Sussex braves the snow and cold water to take part in the daily swim today

A woman rises her bicycle along a snowy street this morning in Coventry as the 'Beast from the East' hits Britain

A woman rises her bicycle along a snowy street this morning in Coventry as the ‘Beast from the East’ hits Britain

The A249 Detling Hill in Kent was shut between the M20 J5 and 7, with motorists advised to use the A229 Blue Bell Hill instead

The A249 Detling Hill in Kent was shut between the M20 J5 and 7, with motorists advised to use the A229 Blue Bell Hill instead

A camera shows the snowy conditions on the M2 in Kent near junction five as South East England faces severe weather today

A camera shows the snowy conditions on the M2 in Kent near junction five as South East England faces severe weather today

A young Humboldt penguin enjoys the snow flurry yesterday on Penguin Beach at ZSL London Zoo in Regent's Park

A young Humboldt penguin enjoys the snow flurry yesterday on Penguin Beach at ZSL London Zoo in Regent’s Park

What is the ‘Beast from the East’ and why does it make the UK so cold?

The ‘Beast from the East’ is a nickname given to cold and wintry conditions in Britain that are brought by easterly winds from the near continent.

 

The UK normally experiences a polar continental air mass when pressure is high over Scandinavia.

In winter cold air is drawn in from the Eurasian landmass, bringing the cold weather from the ‘Beast from the East’.

The length of sea track during the air’s passage from Europe to Britain will determine its characteristics.

A short sea track over the English Channel will bring clear skies and severe frost, plus the cold and dry air.

But a longer track over the North Sea makes the air unstable and moisture is added – maybe bringing rain and snow.

The lowest temperatures in Britain normally happen in this air mass, falling to below -10C (14F) at night and sometimes remaining sub-zero all day.

Surface temperatures below freezing will make any snow drier because it contains less water. But wet snow comes from slightly warmer and moist air, which joins snowflakes together.

Over winter, a blob of cold air spins over the Arctic high in the stratosphere.

If this spins slower, the air rushes back inwards and often sinks through the atmosphere – becoming warmer and even spinning in the opposite way.

This can reverse our jet stream – and, in time, mild westerly winds become cold easterlies from Siberia – increasing the chance of snow in Britain.

Amber warnings for snow are in place for the South East and North East of England and the East Midlands until midday, while a yellow warning covering much of the country is in force until midnight.

Forecasters are predicting 5cm (2in) to 10cm (4in) of snow will fall for most areas of the UK, with up to 40cm (15in) possible for higher grounds in Scotland.

Met Office meteorologist Emma Sillitoe said: ‘During the rush hour there will still be some really heavy showers around, making their way towards London. 

‘There will also be further disruption throughout the day as these showers become widespread across the country.’

Temperatures plummeted to -5C (23F) in the capital overnight, and the mercury will struggle to get much above freezing during the day.

Conditions are not likely to improve for several days, with forecasters warning that snow will continue well into the week.

Met Office forecaster Marco Petagna said there would be some ‘quite treacherous driving conditions’ due to the snow, as many make their way into work.

‘Most people will have to travel, but if you don’t have to travel – it is best to try to avoid if you can within those amber warnings,’ he said.

Mr Petagna said daytime temperatures would ‘struggle to get above freezing’ across many areas.

‘Add on the effect of that wind, and the wind is going to pick up come Wednesday, so it is going to start to feel even colder still,’ he added.  

Many local authorities said they were ready to react to the adverse conditions, with Kent County Council even stating all resources would be focused on keeping highways clear.

Network Rail revealed it would also be putting heaters and Nasa-grade insulation on to points on the tracks in a bid to prevent ice forming overnight.

The NHS could also struggle to cope with the extra strain caused by the wintry weather, doctors have warned, and people have been encouraged to check on elderly or vulnerable neighbours.

The public have also been asked to look out for the homeless and report anyone sleeping rough in the freezing conditions to their local council.

An amber snow warning is in place for the North East of England and Scotland from 6am tomorrow to 12pm on Thursday, with up to 40cm (15in) of snow expected to fall during that period.

Forecaster Frank Saunders said parts of the country could see their ‘coldest spell of weather since at least 2013, and possibly since 1991’.

It is expected that the mercury could plummet to -15C (5F) by midweek where there is snow on the ground, rivalling temperatures forecast for parts of northern Norway and Iceland. 

From Thursday, forecasters predict that another weather system, Storm Emma, will bring blizzards, gales and sleet as it meets the chilly ‘Beast from the East’ later this week.

The storm, named by the Portuguese Met Service, will move north through Europe and is due to hit the UK on Thursday and Friday, and will be ‘significantly disruptive’, bringing the risk of power cuts and transport delays. 

** Have you taken any pictures of the snow in Britain today? Please email them to: pictures@dailymail.co.uk **

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