Snow could hit parts of southern England within days as ice cold temperatures plummet to minus 10C, forecasters say.
The UK will see at least seven days of arctic weather accompanied by wintry downpours and “freezing fog” which could affect morning commutes.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) sent out a Level 3 cold weather alert covering England until Monday and the Met Office issued several yellow weather warnings for snow and ice in parts of the country over the coming days.
Temperatures plummeted late on Thursday to as low as minus 9C in the village of Benson in South Oxfordshire.
Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge said: “The outlook for the UK remains cold at least for the next seven days, with the potential for this to continue even longer.
“At the moment the air mass which is feeding the cold conditions is coming from a northerly direction, even with an Arctic influence.
“However, this air mass is also relatively drier so most of the precipitation is in the form of showers rather than continuous like you would get with a weather front. This has the benefit of bringing quite clear and bright conditions by day for many.
“Along with the cold air there are a number of weather-related hazards including freezing fog, especially for Sunday and Monday mornings in the south of England.
“Overnight temperatures are likely to dip widely below zero with some more sheltered spots dropping to minus 10C.
“Our forecasters are looking at the possibility of snow affecting the south east of England on Sunday night and into Monday morning. If this happens it could bring some disruption to Monday’s rush hour.”
Meanwhile, just over 3,200 warm banks, run by local authorities and charities to provide heating to those who can not afford to heat their homes, are open across the UK, according to the Warm Welcome Campaign.
It said many of them are a third or even half full and offer a variety of services, from hot tea to a place to work.
Charity Save the Children said 194 of 355 councils in England and Wales are directly involved in or supporting local groups to open warm spaces this winter.
Councillor Richard Wenham, Vice Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, said: “Warm hubs and other similar schemes are among the many actions councils are taking to support people in the greatest need this winter, but these emergency schemes should not become the norm and are not a sustainable solution to bridge the gap between income and the current cost of living.”
It comes as people on the lowest incomes in hundreds of affected postcode districts in England and Wales are set to receive a £25 cold weather payment.
The Government payments have been triggered for eligible households in areas where the average temperature has been recorded as, or is forecast to be, 0C or below over seven consecutive days.
Elsewhere, RAC breakdown spokesman Rod Dennis said Thursday was an “exceptionally busy day for patrols”, with a quarter more breakdowns taking place across the UK than is “normal” for the time of year.
He went on: “If anything, we’re expecting today to be even busier as many people – including students – use their cars to get away for the weekend, or take a day off to do their Christmas shopping.
“It’s a picture that’s going to continue into the weekend and next week as the cold snap continues.
“It’s vital that drivers make sure their cars are ready for the conditions to limit the risk of breaking down in the low temperatures, and this weekend is an ideal time to do check over their car’ tyres as well as oil, coolant and screenwash levels.
“Anyone embarking on a longer journey should pack a winter kit they can use if the worst happens, which should include plenty of warm clothing layers for all passengers, a flask of warm drink, as well as food, water and a power-bank for keeping a mobile phone charged.”
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