Parts of England are being battered by “thundersnow” storms as the winter weather continues to bite across Britain.
Met Office forecaster Simon Partridge said: “We have got snow falling in a number of areas in the North and West, including thunderstorms.
“There is thundersnow to the north of Manchester – these are normal thunderstorms but with snow rather than rain.”
Main roads in Durham and Yorkshire are among those closed because of the weather and more than a dozen rail services between Manchester and York have been cancelled, as northern England is hit by the storms this morning.
Phil Verster, route managing director for Network Rail, advised train passengers to check before they travel.
Flights to and from Manchester Airport have been suspended until 10.30am, with flights being diverted, an airport spokesman said. Passengers are advised to come to the airport as normal but to check with their airline.
Sky News forecaster Isobel Lang said today would see frequent snow showers in Scotland, Northern Ireland, northern parts of Ireland and in northern England.
She added: “The strong winds will blow the snow around, making driving dangerous.
“During this evening and tonight the showers will ease, it will turn slightly less cold, with the showers turning more to sleet or rain later. It may still be icy.”
Cold blasts from Greenland and Iceland will cause temperatures to drop to around 2-3C (36-37F) in the North and 4-5C (39-41F) in the South. It will become slightly milder by Friday, reaching 7C (45F) in the South.
The Met Office has issued an amber “be prepared” warning for snow, which covers huge parts of Britain from Liverpool Bay to the Humber to the western side of the Welsh mountains.
Up to 15cm (6in) of snow is expected to fall in parts of the North tonight and there is also snow expected during the morning rush hour in the Northwest, on the M6 north of Cheshire, Scotland and Greater London.
In Scotland, forecasters said more than 5cm (2in) could accumulate at lower levels by this morning, with more than 15cm on high ground, making conditions treacherous for drivers.
Darron Burness, head of the AA’s severe weather team, said motorists should prepare by clearing snow and ice from car windows, lights and the roof before driving.
“The wind will also make it feel bitterly cold, so at the very least take lots of warm layers, fully-charged mobile, road atlas, and make sure your car has at least a quarter of a tank of fuel in case of unexpected delays,” he said.
RAC spokesman Simon Williams added: “The message to drivers is to plan ahead – perform some quick and easy checks on the condition of your vehicle, such as tyres and windscreen wipers, as soon as possible.”
Dr Angie Bone, head of extreme events at Public Health England, said people should dress in lots of thin layers and wear shoes with good slip-resistant grip when going outside.
She also encouraged people to check on friends and family, especially the elderly, very young or those with health conditions.
An Arctic blast is also expected to bring a fresh wave of snow and freezing temperatures over the weekend.
The Met Office has issued snow warnings for then, predicting snow in the north of Scotland and Northern Ireland on Saturday, and spreading down both sides of the UK on Sunday, hitting western Wales, southwest England, East Anglia and the east coast of England.