Commuters braced for travel misery this morning as a potentially lethal combination of freezing temperatures and fog caused forecasters to warn of travel chaos.
As the mercury slipped to minus digits overnight, the start to the day felt bitterly cold with temperatures plummeting to as low as -9.5C in Santon Downham, Norfolk, just before 8am.
The icy roads sparked travel warnings after reports of multiple crashes during the morning rush hour.
Passengers were left disappointed as Heathrow scrambled to reduce the number of flights by up to 15 per cent due to freezing fog and Air Traffic Control restrictions.
Commuters braced for Arctic conditions this morning as the UK woke to freezing fog as a yellow weather warning remains in place
People wake to freezing cars in Windsor, Berkshire, this morning as the mercury slipped to minus digits overnight
The mercury had plunged to -9.5C in Santon Downham, Norfolk. just before 8am on Monday – but things were considerably warmer near the top of Scotland – reaching over 10C
Around 80 British Airways flights were forced to cancel – as were dozens of other airlines – due to low visibility at the busy London airport.
Forecasters have warned that low visibility could cause potentially hazardous road conditions, with the freezing fog could become so thick that visibility could drop as low as 50 metres in some parts of England.
Passengers landing at Heathrow Airport on Monday morning were met with low visibility as freezing fog swept across the capital
Flights in and out of Heathrow Airport were severely disrupted due to the weather conditions, with more than 80 cancellations hitting British Airways alone.
All airlines are affected but conditions are expected to lift later this morning.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: ‘Poor visibility is forecast this morning at the airport and across the South East.
Flights at London’s airports were hit by delays and cancellations due to the freezing fog
Freezing fog led to low visibility as cars travelled down a country lane in Dundsen, Oxfordshire on Monday morning
Forecasters have warned that ice on roads could make for dangerous driving conditions. Pictured: Highgate, north London this morning
There was low visibility on Monday prompting forecasters to warn of potentially hazardous driving conditions
Thick frost has set in on the banks of the Tames in Cricklade, Wiltshire, this morning
People wake to frozen cars this morning as the temperatures dipped overnight. Pictured: Highgate, north London this morning
‘While there may be minor changes to today’s schedule as a result of the weather, we want to reassure passengers that our colleagues are working in close collaboration with our airline and air traffic control partners to get them safely away on their journeys as quickly as possible.
‘We encourage passengers to check with their airline for the latest information.’
British Airways said: ‘Like other airlines, our schedule has been affected by the continued freezing fog weather conditions experienced across London.
‘We’ve apologised to customers whose flights have been affected and are doing everything we can to get them on their way as quickly as possible’.
The start to the day will feel bitterly cold with temperatures plummeting to as low as -6C in London by 8am, while much of the UK will struggle to get above zero
Two swimmers braved freezing temperatures at the Serpentine in Hyde Park this morning
But the weather did not deter hardy swimmers who donned their bobble hats and gloves to take a dip in Hyde Park’s Serpentine this morning.
By 8am the Met Office forecast temperatures to plummet to around-6C in the capital.
Tonight is expected to bring a mixture of conditions with mostly clear skies in the south but heavy cloud further north.
The water was filled with ice as swimmers wearing bobble hats took a dip in the freezing waters of the Serpentine
Ice or no ice, the Serpentine swimming club members were determined to take a morning dip
There will be light showers and drizzle especially in Northern Ireland and Scotland.
It comes amid a cold snap engulfing Britain, as forecasters warned it may continue into next month.
A second ‘Beast from the East’ could arrive in February as a mass of polar air travels southwards from the Arctic.
There is a chance temperatures could plummet further next month due to the ‘polar vortex’ – the high-altitude winds that keep cold air trapped in the North Pole.
The winds could weaken next week, causing Arctic air to rush towards Britain.
The Met Office said the polar vortex could weaken so much that it triggers a ‘sudden stratospheric warming’ (SSW) – a phenomenon in which the North Pole’s air suddenly warms up.
Meteorologist Simon Partridge said there is a ‘small chance’ the UK will see cold weather as a result.
It could see a spell of weather such as that seen in 2018, or even a more severe cold snap such as January 2021, when the UK saw its coldest temperature in 26 years, -23C.
The typical overnight temperature for England in January is around 2C, but this will fall as low as -8C overnight on Sunday and Monday.
It in turn means the ‘freezing fog’ will take longer to clear, with warning to motorists likely to remain in place.
More than a million households will be paid to cut back their electricity tonight as part of an emergency scheme to prevent blackouts on one of the coldest days of the year.
The National Grid is tipped to reward those participating in the Demand Flexibility Service as they voluntarily reduce their usage between 5pm and 6pm, preventing the nation’s supply from being overstretched.
It is the first time National Grid has implemented its DFS scheme since it was first announced last November, the Times reports, as the UK prepares for freezing temperatures this week.
The National Grid is encouraging homeowners to take part in the scheme in a bid to avoid potential blackouts. Earlier energy company Octopus suggested its customers could save as much as £240
In a further sign of the squeeze on supply, the company is preparing to use its back-up coal plants at the Drax power station in North Yorkshire and West Burton in Nottinghamshire today.
It will be the first time the two coal-fired power units are warmed up on standby, ready to generate in case they are required.
A spokesman from National Grid’s electricity system operator said: ‘Our forecasts show electricity supply margins are expected to be tighter than normal on Monday evening.
‘We have instructed coal-fired power units to be available to increase electricity supplies should it be needed tomorrow evening.
‘This does not mean electricity supplies are at risk and people should not be worried. These are precautionary measures to maintain the buffer of spare capacity we need.’