- Temperatures to plummet to minus 3°C this week and could fall as low as 20°C in December.
- Fears that snow blizzards could close roads and shut down rail networks as winter takes hold.
- But torrential rain which has deluged country and swamped St Asaph in North Wales will finally ease.
The cold snap is expected to last until the end of the week, creating dangerous conditions on the roads and adding to the misery of those already battling floods.
Temperatures could fall to as low as minus 3°c (27°f) in some places, with snow already falling in the Pennines.
The torrential rain which has deluged the country for the last week is expected to ease at last but the clearer skies, coupled with northerly winds, will send the mercury plummeting.
Tonight’s cold snap heralds a freezing winter ahead with long-range forecasters warning that temperatures could fall to as low as minus 20°c (4°f) in some areas through December and January.
They fear snow blizzards could close roads and shut down rail networks across the country as winter takes hold.
The cold, drier spell that starts tonight could be only a brief respite from the rain. More heavy showers are expected to return early next week, causing more misery to those trying to combat flood damage.
Local authorities say they are prepared for a harsh winter and have taken steps to avoid a repeat of two years ago, when a lack of gritters and snowploughs caused roads and transport networks to grind to a halt.The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, said councils had stockpiled 1.3million tons of road salt and had ‘hundreds’ of gritters on standby.‘The weather will be much colder and drier across most of the UK today,’ said Meteogroup forecaster John Lee.‘Northerly winds and clearer skies will make it feel much colder and we can expect widespread frost overnight when temperatures drop below freezing.
‘Wintry showers will bring sleet, snow and hail to higher ground tomorrow and there’s a risk of heavy snow showers in northern Scotland on Friday.
‘Keeping the country moving is a community effort,’ said Peter Box, chairman of the LGA’s economy and transport board.He said councils would be using social media, including Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, to keep people up to date about how weather is affecting their area.
‘Councils will be treating as many roads as they can and have also installed and filled thousands of extra grit bins for people living in side streets, villages and housing estates.
‘They’ve given equipment to parish councils, community groups and snow wardens who have volunteered to grit hard-to-reach areas, and farmers will be helping out on country lanes.
‘Highways, street-cleaning and park staff could also be drafted in to help clear snow and ice around places like shops, schools and sheltered accommodation.’