Snow and ice arrive as Britain braces for big freeze

Met Office raises alert level to one below emergency as cold snap threatens road and air travel

LAST UPDATED AT 08:41 ON Mon 14 Jan 2013

BRITAIN awoke to widespread snow this morning and more freezing weather is on the way as the cold snap starts to bite. The Met Office has issued amber warnings for much of the country and raised its alert level to three - one below a national emergency.

Icy conditions could last until Friday morning and temperatures could plunge to -9C in some areas. There were reports of snow in Scotland, Yorkshire, the Midlands and south-east England, including London, although it was mostly light.

The snow arrived with the usual predictions of transport chaos and commuters have been warned to expect problems, although London's public transport network appeared to be holding up during the Monday morning rush hour.

However, the worst is yet to come, reports Sky News: "A second, heavier band of sleet and snow is expected to move eastwards across the country this morning, bringing up to 10cm of snow on higher ground."

The Daily Mail warned that councils were preparing to close schools if necessary and said that, according to the AA, three-quarters of motorists were unprepared for the weather. But it added that local authorities "insisted there would be no repeat of the problems during wintry weather in 2010 when large parts of the transport network ground to a halt".

London Mayor Boris Johnson appeared to fear the worst as he spoke out in anticipation of problems at Heathrow. "Every time there is a slight problem, Heathrow cannot cope," he told the Daily Telegraph.

The cold weather will only exacerbate existing problems added the paper. "Flood warnings remained in place in the South East, including on the Thames where high spring tides are already causing problems around Richmond," it warned.

What will happen at the end of the week remains unclear, says the Telegraph. "The cold front is expected to last to the end of the week, with sunny periods. But a 'battle' is waging with warmer fronts to the south that could bring warmer, wetter air." · 

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