The Met Office has warned that more travel chaos is on the way as heavy snowfall overnight turns to icy conditions and freezing fog descends, causing severe disruption on roads, railways, and runways and forcing thousands of schools to close.
Long queues formed on motorways after a section of the M25 was closed for several hours, while passengers were stranded at UK airports this morning as flights were canceled or delayed due to bad weather.
One motorist who waited for hours on the M25 after a section of the UK’s busiest highway was closed said the road did not appear to be gritted, but National Highways said ‘up to 25 gritters [were] treating the M25 at any one time.’
Meanwhile, commuters were advised to stay at home after snow and ice wreaked havoc on the entire southeastern railway network, as well as the London Underground.
Snow, ice, and fog warnings are in effect across much of the UK, with an ice warning in eastern and south-east England in effect until 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
A wintry showers warning is also in effect for much of northern Scotland and parts of north-east England for the next 48 hours, beginning at midday on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, much of the United Kingdom will struggle to break the freezing mark on Monday.
The National Grid has requested that two of its coal-fired power plants begin operations as freezing weather puts strain on the UK’s power network.
Travel disruption is expected on highways following several accidents, with drivers urged to exercise caution on major roads and avoid travel unless absolutely necessary, as the AA reported a 25% increase in breakdown calls.
‘Many drivers were stranded or severely delayed on the northern section of the M25 last night between London Colney and the M11,’ said AA president Edmund King.
‘Due to the continuous snowfall, traffic is still severely delayed there this morning.’ The M2, M20, and other Kent roads were also severely impacted.
‘The conditions demonstrate the importance of being prepared if you are driving.’ He urged drivers to check their fuel levels and bring warm clothing, a charged phone, food, and water.
After spending several hours stuck on the M25 in Hertfordshire overnight, traffic chaos continued this morning.
As cars skidded and struggled in the heavy snow, traffic came to a halt, with motorists moving hundreds of yards in hours.
A section of the M1 was closed in both directions for several hours this morning between Junction 23 for South Mimms and Junction 25 for Waltham Cross, both in Hertfordshire, but has now reopened.
Over 100 flights scheduled to serve UK airports were canceled on Sunday and Monday, with Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, and London City among the worst hit.
Heathrow Airport said it would limit the number of takeoffs and landings today, while Gatwick advised passengers to double-check before flying.
Stansted Airport suspended all flights last night after being forced to close its runway due to bad weather this winter.
Essex Airport stated that the runway is “fully operational,” but that “there will be knock-on effects to flights as a result of yesterday’s impacts and flight cancellations.”
‘Crew and aircraft will be out of position, so we may not be able to operate on the planned schedule,’ a spokesman added.
Meanwhile, thousands of schools in the United Kingdom were forced to close today as people were advised not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
Today, an emergency Cobra meeting will discuss contingency plans for strikes later this month, including the possibility of involving military and civil servants to limit disruption.
Snow and ice caused severe disruption across National Rail’s entire south eastern network on Sunday night, and delays would continue into Monday, ‘particularly in the morning.’
‘The first trains in each direction on all routes will be cancelled to allow Network Rail to check that the rails are clear of snow and ice, which can prevent trains from drawing power from the electric rail,’ it said.
People were advised to double-check their travel plans before leaving.
Northern Scotland experienced its coldest night of the year, with temperatures falling below minus 15 degrees Celsius.
According to the Met Office, the lowest temperature recorded was -15.6 degrees Celsius at Braemer in Aberdeenshire, with the five next coldest temperatures all recorded in Scotland, including -13.1 degrees Celsius at Balmoral.
The UK is facing its toughest test yet, with the current cold snap causing freezing temperatures and snow in many areas, increasing demand for power at a time when supplies are scarce.
Next-day electricity prices in the UK increased yesterday in order to attract power imports from Europe via interconnectors, and record prices are expected during peak demand hours on Monday between 5pm and 7pm.
The order for the coal-fired plants is the first since they were placed on standby, and it comes as the grid announced another test of its demand flexibility service, which pays customers to use less electricity during specific hours.