BRITAIN will get some respite from the bitterly cold temperatures today – but forecasters predict -18C and up to 10in of snow are on the way.
Wintry sunshine in parts will help thermometers creep up to high single-figures for some throughout Sunday – especially in the South and East.
Meanwhile, some patches of insulating cloud in western parts will also help keep in the little remaining warmth in the weather.
But further north, rain showers and dustings of hill snow will still affect some as parts of Britain endure the typical January weather.
A forecast from Meteogroup UK said of Sunday’s conditions: “It will be mostly dry with sunny spells and variable cloud amounts for southern and eastern areas.
“In the north, a band of rain and hill snow will affect Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England, mostly light.
A few showers are possible for the far west of Wales and south-west England.”
“Tonight will be a clear start to the evening, although there will be some cloud across parts of northern England and the Midlands with the odd spot of light rain possible.
Later in the night a few mist and fog patches may develop in the south.
“It will also be cloudy and wet in the far north-west by dawn.”
But the respite won’t last for long as Britain is set to tackle the longest cold spell for six years with 2,000 gritters and 500 snowploughs.
A five-week chill from Europe is set to bring 10in snow and bitterly cold lowers of -18C (0F).
Nights are colder than -5C Moscow as the Met Office forecast the latest patch of cold weather, which began on Wednesday, to last another 30 days.
That would easily beat last winter’s two-week Beast from the East and fortnight-long freezes in other recent winters.
The previous record-holder was the five-week chill from late February to the end of March 2013, Met Office records show.
The Met Office said scattered snow flurries are set to hit the Midlands and West in midweek and East from Thursday, with London at risk.
“Significant” snow threatens from the following week, the Met Office said.
The Weather Outlook warned of the longest cold spell for six years, with snow from late January seeing six inches fall in England and up to 10in Scotland, with lows down to -12C in England and -18C in Scotland.
The RAC projected up to 4,000 extra breakdowns daily across all UK providers.
RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “This is the biggest test of the country’s winter resilience since the Beast from the East.
“Almost all gritters will be out. Motorists should pack a blanket, shovel and phone battery charger in case they are needed.”
1,500 gritters in England and 500 in Scotland are digging into a record-equalling three million tonne salt mountain.
Over 1.4m tonnes is held by English councils, with around 1.6m across highways departments and in Scotland.
Heathrow has 185 snowploughs on standby. Gatwick has 98 snowploughs and blowers ready. Around 200 snowploughs are based at other airports.
Network Rail will use 34 de-icing trains.
Minister for Implementation Oliver Dowden said: “Our public services are prepared for severe weather.”
An amber level 3 Government health warning — one tier below a level 4 national emergency — in the North ordered community groups to “activate community emergency plans.”
Hospitals are expected to be busier than usual and health staff have been ordered make daily contact with the ill, vulnerable and elderly.
A Met Office forecaster said: “It tuns colder and stays cold or very cold to February 2.
“February 3 to 17 is likely to be cold or very cold, and could be interspersed by wetter interludes bringing an associated risk of significant snow and ice, most likely in the south.”
Met Office forecaster Emma Smith said: “The continent is cold and cold air will affect us at times until mid-February, with transient fronts from the north-west at times.
“Snow showers could fall on Monday over Scotland, on Monday night on the Peak District and Pennines, in the West on Tuesday and Wednesday, into Thursday in the East and even London, and at the weekend in the North-East.”