Icy roads to cause disruption ahead of 'gradual thaw'

Icy roads and freezing temperatures will cause continued disruption across swathes of the UK, but the extreme conditions look set to ease for some.

Roads and railways have been rendered impassable by the coldest start to March on record, stranding hundreds of people in treacherous and snowy conditions.

Weather warnings remain in place for snow and ice but a "gradual thaw" will begin across the south west over the weekend, the Met Office said.

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Drivers across much of England, Wales and Northern Ireland will face icy roads on Saturday, with a yellow alert in place until 11am.

A yellow weather warning is also in place throughout the day in England and Scotland, where snow showers are expected to cause further disruption to transport.

Paul Gunderson, chief meteorologist at the Met Office said: "As we head into next week there is likely to be more of a north-south split in weather conditions.

"There will continue to be a risk of rain, sleet and snow at times.

Winter weather March 2nd 2018
Winter weather March 2nd 2018

"The less cold air means there will be a gradual thaw, but this will freeze again overnight so ice is likely to be an additional overnight hazard together with low cloud and fog.

"Colder conditions will continue in the north, with snow showers, although less heavy and less frequent than of late."

The slight break in the weather comes after days of severe disruption and several deaths, including a seven-year-old girl.

Collisions have occupied emergency services across the country, while the Army has been drafted in as part of a major rescue operation to reach motorists trapped on roads by heavy snow and icy blasts.

Between five and 10 vehicles collided at around 3.45pm on Friday on the A38 westbound in Devon, Highways England said.

A further 30 vehicles became stuck in a lane due to the weather conditions after the accident between the A380 and B3344.

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Southeastern rail services were also severely disrupted after frustrated passengers jumped from a train near Lewisham station, south London, on Friday evening and began walking down tracks.

The company turned off power in the area for safety reasons and called for police support as it dealt with the "serious trespass incident".

It had earlier told passengers not to travel, while South Western Railway wound down services early in light of the weather.

The Met Office said Thursday saw the temperature slump to its lowest daily maximum on record for March, at minus 5.2C at Bryn Bach Park, Tredegar.

Half a metre of snow was measured in two areas - Drumalbin, Lanarkshire, and St Athan in Glamorgan, South Wales - while strengthening winds caused blizzards and drifting snow in some parts of the country.

Flood warnings were also issued in several coastal regions by the Environment Agency, which published 15 warnings and 36 alerts, predominantly for south west and north east England.

According to the @metoffice, temperatures are set to steadily rise over the next few days. We're not expecting an increase in flood risk from rapid thaw but do regularly check our website for updates: https://t.co/OkRQsKNblD#StormEmma#floodawarepic.twitter.com/cmWPXfUYzD

-- Environment Agency (@EnvAgency) March 2, 2018

Large parts of the Irish Republic remain on red alert until 9am on Saturday, after being hit by the worst snow in 35 years.

Thousands of homes were left without power due to the extreme weather and hundreds of schools have been forced to close, including the majority in Wales.

The M62 was closed between Rochdale and Huddersfield, where dozens of drivers required rescuing, Greater Manchester Police said.

Hampshire Police said they had called in the military to help evacuate people from the A31, while Avon and Somerset Constabulary said about 100 vehicles had become stuck on the A303 at Ilminster.

The Army sent 10 4×4 vehicles and 20 troops to Shropshire, while the Royal Marines deployed the same resources in Devon and Cornwall.

Troops also helped transport staff to hospitals in the NHS Fife and NHS Tayside regions.

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