Parts of freezing Britain will be colder than Mount Everest this week as charities warn people to check on elderly and vulnerable neighbours.
The news comes as the country is braced for the coldest night for three years, with the Met Office forecasting lows of -15C in rural Scotland.
Drivers have been warned to expect treacherous road conditons during the icy spell, which will affect most parts of the UK until Thursday.
A severe cold weather alert has been issued for huge swathes of the country including northern England, the Midlands and East Anglia, where there is a 90% probability of icy conditions.
Southern parts of the country, including London, have been told to ‘be alert’ for freezing weather.
Temperatures in some areas are expected to dip to -9C overnight later in the week, colder than the -5C predicted in the foothills of Mount Everest.
The freezing weather is expected to cause chaos on the roads, especially during the Monday morning rush hour. The RAC is braced for a 50 per cent increase in breakdowns in affected regions.
Simon Williams, a spokesman, said: “Cold weather creates a giant spike in drivers running into problems.
“Motorists should plan journeys and pack an emergency pack containing food, a hot drink, torch, warm clothes, blankets, first aid kit and fully-charged mobile phone.”
A new yellow “be aware” warning of snow and ice has been put in place for much of the north east of Scotland, as well as coastal areas in North East England and Yorkshire and Humber.
Hospitals have been warned to expect increased demand, and health staff will make daily visits or phone calls to the elderly, ill and vulnerable.
Public Health England have urged people to help vulnerable family and friends to keep warm as Age UK warned one older person could die every seven minutes from the cold this winter.
Age UK’s charity director Caroline Abrahams said: “With just under one million older people living in fuel poverty, many simply cannot afford to heat their homes to a temperature high enough to keep warm and well.
“We are calling for the Government to commit to improving the energy efficiency of homes across the country in order to provide a long-lasting solution to the scandal of fuel poverty and preventable winter deaths.”
Simon Partridge, a Met Office forecaster, confirmed temperatures on Sunday night could plunge below levels not seen for three years but said the cold spell should ease off through the week.
He said: “It will be the coldest night of winter so far, probably the coldest since January 2013 and potentially the coldest since February 2012.
“With light winds forecast, areas with snow lying could see -10C on the Pennines and -14C a possibility in Scotland locally in sheltered areas.
“Early in Monday morning’s rush-hour looks the coldest time, with the whole of the UK below freezing. There are likely to be more warnings ahead and potentially snow and travel disruption .
“Monday night looks cold again and it will certainly be cold until Wednesday or Thursday, with no major changes to the weekend and remaining cold, although probably not quite as cold as earlier in the week.”
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