The “Beast of the East” is likely to linger in parts of Scotland until the middle of next week, forecasters have warned – with the east of the country hardest hit.
Forecasters from the Met Office said that the east coast was likely to continue to be blasted by icy Siberian winds for as long as another five days, but a lower level of snow should mean that travel should gradually return to normal. Other parts of Scotland, however, are set to see warmer temperatures into the weekend, while snow showers are due to stop across most of the country tomorrow.
Scotland’s unprecedented red alert for snow ended at 10am yesterday – but an amber warning of “frequent and often heavy snow showers” was set to continue through last night, while the lower Yellow warning level will still be in force throughout the weekend and into next week.
Major disruption has affected huge areas of Scotland, with a large proportion of buses, trains and planes cancelled – and the vast majority of schools closed. Shoppers also reported that many supermarkets were unable to receive deliveries, with some left with empty shelves.
Temperatures plummeted to as low as minus 12C on top of Ben Nevis yesterday, the Met Office said.
Nicky Maxey, spokeswoman for the Met Office, said that a second weather event, Storm Emma, had pushed warmer air up through England, but that Scotland was still suffering from the effects of the cold, eastern weather which came over from Russia.
She said: “We’ve still got cold air coming in from Russia, which is so cold that any precipitation in the air immediately turns to snow. The red warning has now expired, but we still have amber and then yellow warnings in some parts of Scotland over the next few days, which will affect most of Scotland apart from the far west until Saturday. We could see five to 10cm more snow quite widely and as much as 15 to 20cm on the hills.
“However, it is a question to how long Scotland is holding on to the colder air as to how long it will last. The east of Scotland is likely to hang on to some snow until into next week. However, we have had the unusual situation of a red warning and now that has gone, the level of snow will not be maintained. Once roads are cleared and communities are able to get in and out again, snow is unlikely now to build up to such an extent that it will cause much disruption.”
The UK is usually protected by a jet stream, which makes the weather generally milder than elsewhere in northern Europe. However, an area of high pressure has diverted the jet stream, meaning that the freezing air has been directed on to the British Isles.
Last year, Jeremy Mathis, of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the Arctic was like the planet’s “refrigerator”.
“But the door to that refrigerator has been left open,” he said. “And the cold is spilling out, cascading throughout the northern hemisphere.”
The freezing temepratures have caused disruption across the whole of Europe, with many countries forced to take action to protect citizens.
Danish police yesterday said that two peope have died as a result of the extreme temperatures, while Sweden’s emergency service said it had received about 550 calls regarding minor road crashes as of Thursday morning in the past three days, twice as much as for an ordinary winter day.
Macedonia’s government has urged employers to exempt pregnant women and people aged over 60 from work for a day due to the freezing conditions, which reached minus 18.