Weather warning for drivers
Over the last few days winter has finally arrived to the UK. Freezing cold temperatures and treacherous road conditions have resulted in widespread disruption, especially in Scotland.
Heavy snow showers on high ground in Scotland and the Pennines have added to the difficult conditions and the Met Office has maintained severe weather warnings over the whole of Northern Ireland, most of Scotland, the entire Pennine spine and most of the north-west of England.
Roads up and down the country have been affected by black ice and the Highways Agency and police have appealed for continuing care by drivers. A spokesman for the agency repeated the warning used back in February, saying:
“We advise drivers to plan their journey carefully by checking weather forecasts and traffic updates before they travel by road.
“Drivers should also allow for extra time for their journeys in extreme conditions and consider whether their journey is essential.”
In Scotland, a number of serious road accidents caused by skidding cars and jack-knifed lorries have closed several roads. The M8 has been closed westbound at junction six by a jack-knifed lorry, and other traffic incidents have shut the A77 northbound at Kilmarnock and the westbound carriageway of the Clydeside Expressway in Glasgow, where a car skidded into road barriers at 6.15am.
The Scottish government responded by employing 120 gritters overnight. The Scottish transport minister, Keith Brown, appealed to drivers to take extra care and give gritters plenty of space. He said:
“We have seen a few incidents that have caused some disruption, but our gritters are working on trunk roads and motorways to treat every route at least once.
“We are all working hard to keep Scotland moving and get back to normal where disruption does occur, particularly in the north-west where conditions are the most difficult. We urge the public to continue to exercise care; plan your journey, listen to police advice and check available travel updates.”
Other affected areas in Scotland include the Skye Bridge, where drivers have been warned of the high winds on top of the freezing chill and the A83 at Tarbert, where there has been major icing.
In addition, Stornoway and Sumburgh airports have been closed, earlier in the week, along with Inverness, although these have now reopened.
The severe drop in temperatures has resulted in revisions in forecasts of how quickly milder weather will return. The Met Office predicts that snow and cold will persist in Scotland and parts of northern England into next week, with the threat of gales joining in on Thursday and Friday. However, in the south, conditions are expected to ease more quickly and therefore the odds remain against a white Christmas in most parts of the United Kingdom.
As a result of the drop in temperature and in preparation following last year’s heavy snowfall, demand for winter tyres has reached an “all-time high”, along with de-icing equipment, shovels and emergency winter clothing. Martin Barber, from Halfords bike and car accessory chain, said:
“We’ve seen a fivefold increase in the number of inquiries about winter tyres this year versus last. We sold our first set to a well-prepared motorist in Aberdeen in early September, two months earlier than our previous record.”