Chaos continues as winter chill claims first life

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ONE man has died, dozens of schools were closed, and travel was disrupted across Scotland yesterday as a cold snap continues to grip the nation.

• Farmer David Bennie looks on as his Highland cattle are moved to a sheltered area at his farm near Denny

The sub-zero temperatures and icy conditions caused travel headaches north of the Border, while in England parts of the country were also crippled by heavy snowfalls and a man was found dead in a frozen pond.

And while forecasters predicted Scotland would escape the worst of the weather warnings in the days before Christmas, wintry showers and low temperatures could cause dangerous conditions and delays for holiday travellers.

Across the Highlands, 124 out of 220 schools were closed, along with all 33 schools in Shetland and eight schools in Moray.

Inverness and Aberdeen airports re-opened after shutting on Sunday but travellers were hit by the closures of Gatwick and Luton airports, as well as disruption at Stansted from the heavy snow.

Bristol Airport re-opened but there were continued delays following its closure on Sunday. There were some delays to flights from Edinburgh Airport of up to half-an-hour earlier yesterday. Glasgow Airport said it saw some delays for flights but the weather had not been "bad".

All roads in the Grampian region were affected by icy conditions, with snow gates closed on the A939 between Cockbridge and Tomintoul, and on the A93 Braemar to Perth road at the Cairnwell. Warnings were issued about icy conditions and potential for freezing fog for trunk roads in all other regions of the country. Police advised drivers not to travel unless necessary across the Highlands, while Lothian and Borders Police warned that parts of the M8 were affected by ice.

Rail services were disrupted before noon near Dingwall because of trees and snow on the line, and were later suspended between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh, and road conditions were so poor that alternatives could not be provided.

In Gorebridge, Midlothian, 60-year-old grandmother Jeanette Wright was fighting for her life last night after becoming locked out of her home for seven hours in the sub-zero temperatures. She was found "frozen in a ball" by a 17-year-old neighbour after spending the night out in the open.

The temperature dropped so low that Jeanette's heart stopped and paramedics fought to save her at the scene. She was rushed to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary shortly after she was discovered at 9am.

In Stornoway, Northern Constabulary confirmed that 35-year-old electrician Donald Martin had been found by a neighbour in snow outside his home on Saturday. He was later pronounced dead at Western Isles Hospital.

Age Concern and Help the Aged Scotland said the continuing cold temperatures this week meant the elderly needed to ensure they kept warm, but that family and neighbours also looked out for them.

Four occupants had to be cut free from a car when it left the road in icy conditions on the southbound carriageway of the A90 yesterday morning, about two to three miles south of Stonehaven. A 15-year-old boy was being treated for serious head injuries and a 17-year-old boy was also rushed to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary with spinal injuries along with a woman in her 40s.

The male driver was believed to have escaped uninjured after the car came to rest in a field. The road was closed for three hours as police investigated.

John Hammond, from the Met Office, told The Scotsman: "It's going to be a cold week. Temperatures (today] will reach highs of 1C or 2C, and 3C or 4C on the coasts, but will drop to minus 2-3C, or minus 7-8C in the Highlands at night. Expect sleet or snow and some snow showers in the next few days. Any snow on the ground will not shift."

The AA said they had taken the highest number of breakdown calls on Monday for ten years and a doubling of calls in Scotland and northern England over the weekend.

A spokesman said: "The Scots tend to be better prepared, but people are still sliding into curbs, blowing tyres and taking low speeds around roundabouts. Drivers should only travel if necessary if conditions are bad, and stick to the main roads where possible and be prepared. Some people are not even having warm coats with them, risking hypothermia.

"Scotland will avoid the worst of the weather for the UK, but drivers should not be complacent."

In England, weather warnings and disruptions were more severe, with rail services being replaced by buses in parts of Surrey and West Sussex and delays reported around London and Kent. Virgin West Coast trains were also delayed. The weather in the north west caused last night's Premier League match at Wigan (against Bolton) to be postponed.

In south Wales more than 180 schools and nurseries were closed because of poor weather conditions. In Bradford, police appealed for witnesses after a man was found dead in a freezing city centre pond. And fears were growing last night for a 22-year-old man who vanished in the freezing weather in Chelmsford, Essex.

Meanwhile, the odds of a white Christmas were again slashed by bookies with Aberdeen at 5/6 and 11/8 for both Glasgow and Edinburgh. But despite the heavy snowfall in England, forecasters said a white Christmas was looking less likely across the south east.

The Met Office said a battle between a warmer air stream from the south and colder easterly winds would determine whether it would snow on Christmas Day.

Weather woes at a glance

MORAY: Eight schools closed

SHETLAND: All 33 primaries and secondaries closed

HIGHLAND: 124 of the area's 220 schools closed

STORNOWAY: 35-year-old died in freezing conditions on Saturday

GOREBRIDGE: 60-year-old grandmother fighting for her life after being outside for seven hours

STONEHAVEN: A90 south of Stonehaven – four people cut from car that went off road in icy conditions, two seriously injured

INVERNESS: Airport reopened

ABERDEEN: Airport reopened