It is the coldest weather Britain has experienced since December 1981 (though many Canadians are probably thinking: "Minus 18C? That's quite warm!").
Benson, in Oxfordshire, recorded a temperature of -17.7C, making it colder than Moscow. There has been so much snow throughout the country that many councils have run out of grit to sprinkle on roads and pavements, but convicted criminals have been forced to clear snow and ice in many areas.
And the Arctic conditions have claimed lives. A sports fan has been found dead under ice at a lake near the World Darts Championships; ice caused a cliff to crumble which buried a fisherman; and a teenage boy was killed after being struck by a lorry on the A1.
But this winter is nothing in comparison to that of 1684, when not only the Thames froze, allowing a Frost Fair to be held on it, but the sea froze up to two miles from the shore.
Britain prepares for coldest night of winter so far as five die in -18C big freeze
By Sophie Freeman
07th January 2010
- Teenage boy killed and his mother seriously injured after being struck by lorry on A1
- Sports fan found dead under ice at lake near World Darts Championships
- Young man in critical condition after sledging accident
- Fisherman buried under rubble after ice causes cliff to crumble
- Snowbound staff warned they face docked pay or loss of holidays
- Benson in Oxfordshire records temperature of -17.7C, making it colder than Moscow
- Manchester council leader slams schools for closing despite temps of -15C there
'Can you help? We have a real emergency - my husband's giving a talk on the perils of global warming in half an hour.'
A sports fan attending the televised World Darts Championships has become the latest victim of the UK's plummeting temperatures as the Arctic blast tightens its grip.
The man, believed to be in his 40s, was found dead under the ice in a lake at the world-famous Lakeside Country Club in Surrey.
No-go: A makeshift 'road closed' sign, placed there by a resident of Brislington in Bristol today, informs drivers not to attempt to climb the hill due to sheet ice on the road
Temperatures are expected to drop to lower than -20C in the Scottish Highlands tonight, following lows of -17.7C in Benson, Oxfordshire and -15C in Manchester overnight.
Among casualties as heavy snow turned to ice was a 16-year-old boy killed after the car he was travelling in crashed on the A1 near Richmond, North Yorkshire.
The teenager and his mother are believed to have been making their way to the hard shoulder after colliding with the central reservation when they were struck by a lorry.
Dwindling gritting stocks were also reaching crisis point as a series of accidents on some major routes added to difficulties for millions of drivers.
Forecasters have predicted sub-zero temperatures beyond the weekend, which could mean more of the snowstorms that brought large parts of the country to a standstill yesterday.
Snow fun: A man skis down Dean Street in Newcastle city centre today
Snow plough: A tractor clears the deep snow in Bredgar, Kent, today
Steve Ellison from Meteogroup said: 'It is very icy out there.
Everywhere there has been snow has been affected, especially where the snow melted yesterday.
'There's no end in sight to the cold weather at the moment. It is going to be like this for a good few days yet.'
Hospitals cancelled non-essential operations and the Army was drafted in to rescue motorists as a further 18in (47cm) of snow fell in some places.
A 16-year-old boy was killed and his mother was seriously injured last night when they were hit by a lorry in treacherous conditions on the A1.
The pair from Hebburn, Northumberland, were struck at around 10.30pm near Richmond in North Yorkshire after apparently leaving their car following another collision.
It is thought they were making their way to the hard shoulder after their Peugeot hit the central reservation.
White-out: A satellite image shows a snow-covered UK today
Fire crews spend three hours trying to release the boy who had become trapped under the lorry, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.
A spokesman for the North Yorkshire fire service said: 'The roads were treacherous. It was -6C (21.2F) and there were widespread icy roads.'
An angler was buried alive after the cliff face he was standing on collapsed under the weight of heavy snow and ice.
The sea fisherman was casting off the Northumberland coast near Newbiggin-by-the-Sea when the 20 metre cliff crumbled, burying him under rocks and rubble 50ft below.
More than 50 members of the local coastguard and fire crews made a desperate three-hour bid to uncover the man but he was pronounced dead at the scene last night.
No races today: A bird's eye view of Cheltenham Racecourse today
Snowy streets: Residential streets in Gloucester covered in snow, as seen from the air today
In Shetland, Scotland, a 71-year-old woman was killed in a car crash in icy conditions, and in North Wales, fireman Gareth Wyn Rees, 50, died after slipping in snow and smashing his head on the ice while walking home from his station.
SNOW SPOILS PLAY
The record number of snow-related postponements for a single football game was in 1979 when the match between Inverness Thistle and Falkirk was put back 29 times through January and February.
In the notorious freeze-hit season of 1962-63 there were 261 match postponements between December and March. Some of the fixtures were called off 15 times and the third round of the FA Cup took 66 days to finish.
And in North London, a young man is fighting for his life after suffering head injuries in a sledging accident.
The victim, who is in his mid-twenties, is believed to have crashed into a tree in Alexandra Park at about 2.30am this morning.
London Ambulance Service treated him at the scene before taking him to hospital, where he in intensive care in a critical condition.
Hardy: A jogger braves the snow in just shorts and T-shirt in Springfield near Chelmsford, Essex today
Treacherous: A pensioner falls on an icy path in Brislington, Bristol, today as snow turns to ice
It emerged today that residents of a remote village in Lancashire have been cut off by snow for more than three weeks.
Cow Ark, near Clitheroe, has been dubbed 'the forgotten village' after families were left completely isolated for the 23rd day because snow and ice was blocking their only access road.
TOP TEN COLDEST YEARS IN BRITAIN
A Frost Fair on the Thames, 1684
This is widely regarded as the coldest winter in British history because average temperatures stayed below zero for two months. The River Thames froze for more than two months, thanks to a January 6C colder than the long-term average for the month. Although there have been lower temperatures recorded for short spells, in 1684 the average temperature in January was -3C and in February was -1C.
In late December temperatures dropped to -9C and felt even colder because of biting winds. The following January was one of the coldest months on record.
Foul weather: Police shiver on the touchline during a game at Spurs' White Hart Lane football ground
The third coldest winter. December began with the last great London smog, then gales, before the snow arrived over Christmas. Snow covered most of the country for 67 consecutive days. On January 13, -16C was recorded at Gatwick, -20.6C in Hertfordshire, and the sea froze off the south coast.
January averaged -1.4C. Mid-month, the Thames froze for the first time since 1880. In places snow was so thick that the ice brought down tree branches and phone wires.
More than 2ft of snow paralysed Britain when galeforce blizzards battered the whole country. Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, recorded a temperature of -21.7C on Christmas Day.
Saw one of the heaviest snowfalls of the 20th century. Blizzards began on Christmas Day in the Midlands and Wales, and then spread south by Boxing Day. In Kent, there was 2ft of level snow, and drifts of 20ft were measured in the Chilterns.
People enjoying a snowball fight
January saw the start of one of the longest periods of lying snows in British history. Snow fell somewhere in the country every day from January 22 to 17 March 17. Nearly a quarter of the nation's sheep died. At Writtle, Essex, on January 29, a temperature of -21C was recorded, and most of East Anglia experienced nothing warmer than -5C. Oxford had 16 consecutive days of frost, and Kew had no sunshine for 20 days from January 2.
8 ) 1933
Towards the end of February came one of the worst blizzards to hit Britain. In parts of the North, Wales and the Midlands, there were 48 hours' continuous snowfall, and elsewhere it was almost as bad. Huddersfield had more than 2ft of lying snow and there were 14ft drifts on Yorkshire's moors and dales. Villages from the Midlands to the Scottish borders were cut off.
From December 5-9, there was one of the worst smogs ever to envelope London. This combined with the bitter cold to cause 12,000 deaths. The rest of the winter brought snows, storms and prolonged sub-zero temperatures.
A blizzard hit the South on New Year's Eve, bringing Heathrow Airport to a standstill for days. January averaged -0.4C.
The villagers said they are furious with the council's policy of only gritting priority routes which has left them stranded and say that food and fuel supplies are running low.
One pensioner made a 10-mile round trip on foot to the nearest shop, complete with sledge, to stock up on supplies, they said.
Millions of those who are unable to get to work risk being penalised by bosses through loss of pay or holiday entitlement.
Wrong direction: A jack-knifed lorry blocked the southbound A1 in County Durham today causing massive tailbacks as far as Newcastle
Snow express: A train heads through Ashford in Kent today, as the icy conditions continue across the South
Business leaders said three million people missed work in the worst-hit areas yesterday, an absence rate of about 50 per cent.
Many were parents were forced to take time off because more than 10,000 schools were closed.
DEADLIEST AVALANCHE IN THE UK
A christmas snowstorm in 1836 built up on a cliff overhang in Lewes, East Sussex. The chalk cliff was hanging over workers' cottages in the town and despite several warnings, many of the inhabitants refused to leave.
When the snowy build-up gave way, eight people were killed.
A pub, ironically called the Snowdrop Inn, now sits on the tragic site.
Tesco - which employs 300,000 staff in the UK - said decisions on whether snowbound staff would be paid would be made at local level but warned that some workers might have to take unpaid leave.
The situation is similar for staff at supermarket rival Asda and banks such as Barclays and HSBC.
Unions warned that 'scrooge bosses' who dock pay or holiday entitlement will cause 'unnecessary resentment'.
Hard labour: A woman brushes the snow from the roof of her car before setting off on a journey from the village of Hartley Wintney in Hampshire today
Slow drive: Motorists face dangerous conditions on the A20 near Lenham in Kent today
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: 'Workers who have been prevented from getting to work despite their best efforts should not have to foot the bill for bad weather conditions.'
Marks and Spencer said if staff had trouble getting to their usual workplace, they would be encouraged to go to an alternative store.
Snow caused Britain's worst ever train journey. At 3pm on March 9, 1891, the West Country Express left Paddington, London, for Plymouth but became stuck in the outskirts of the capital.
It finally arrived in Plymouth four days later on March 13.
The freezing weather has already cost businesses an estimated £690million, and experts fear economic output could be hit by as much as £14billion over the next three weeks if the bad weather continues.
Colder than Moscow: Benson, Oxfordshire, which recorded a low of minus 17.7 overnight
Forecasters said the cold spell was the worst for almost 30 years and warned that temperatures could drop to –20c in parts of Scotland this weekend.
A woman had to give birth to her baby daughter at the side of a motorway after she became stranded in a blizzard.
Maria Hollis, 30, was in her husband's car on the way to hospital when they came to a halt in gridlocked traffic on the M53 in Wirral, Merseyside.
Other drivers were alerted to Mrs Hollis's predicament and managed to attract the attention of an ambulance crew transporting a patient suffering an asthma attack, which was also stuck in the queue. Maria was moved to the ambulance where she gave birth to a healthy baby named 'Maggie'.
Mrs Hollis's husband, Kevin, said: 'In the ambulance there was a man who suddenly found a lady next to him giving birth but he was very understanding.
'Maggie came very quickly and she's a little miracle. We can't thank the paramedics enough.'
In Powys, Wales, a police helicopter took food and medical supplies to a family who have been cut off for two weeks.
Budget airline easyJet has already cancelled around 70 flights due in an out of Gatwick Airport today, despite the airport opening its runway last night. The airport cancelled a total of 438 flights yesterday.
Many British Airways flights at Heathrow and Gatwick are either cancelled or delayed due to icy conditions at both airports.
There were chaotic scenes at Heathrow yesterday as hundreds of people were stranded on planes for up to seven hours.
Killed: Fireman Gareth Wyn Rees died after falling in snow and banging his head
Passengers on both incoming and outbound flights were forced to wait in their seats while airport staff attempted to clear the backlog of flights delayed due to the snow.
Up to 90 outbound flights were cancelled yesterday - around one in ten of the daily total - while at least 20 incoming flights were delayed.
Newly-weds Ben and Claire Wood were due to fly out to Mauritius via South Africa for their honeymoon yesterday but ended up sitting on the plane for six hours while the plane was de-iced.
The couple, who were married on December 18th, were then informed that their flight was cancelled because the crew were only allowed to work for a certain amount of time and the de-icing fluid had run out.
They are now booked to fly out to Johannesburg tomorrow instead.
Mrs Wood said: It's all very disappointing and frustrating. We were looking forward to an amazing honeymoon and now all this has happened - it definitely puts a dampener on things.'
Luton, Birmingham, Stansted, Cardiff and Southampton Airports were open today after being forced to close yesterday, but all were advising travellers of disruption and to check with their airlines.
Manchester Airport remained fully operational today.
Trains and buses
Passengers on a Eurostar train were delayed inside the Channel Tunnel for two hours today, just weeks after thousands of passengers were stranded after a number of trains broke down.
The Brussels to London service was due to arrive at St Pancras International at 8.56am but was still inside the tunnel at 10.30am. The broken down train had to be pulled out by a diesel locomotive.
Southern Trains warned of severe disruption on its services today as it ran a revised timetable for a second day.
Southeastern was also running a revised timetable although its high-speed services were expected to run at the normal times.
Many bus services were also affected in Kent and Sussex and in Brighton, snow chains were fitted to buses on major routes.
On the railways, South West Trains was hoping to run a normal service today after its routes were hit by delays and cancellations yesterday.
On the London Underground, the Hammersmith and City line was part suspended earlier today, with delays on the Metropolitan, District, Circle, Central and Bakerloo lines.
Chiltern Railways was also planning near-normal operations, along with Virgin Trains.
More of the UK's major roads were passable today, although forecasters warned drivers faced dangerous icy conditions on untreated routes. Motorists are advised to plan their routes along main roads.
Several police forces including Devon and Cornwall, Kent and Lothian and Borders were urging drivers not to travel unless absolutely necessary.
A section of the A66 in Cumbria remained shut and sections of other roads that were closed included the A1(M) in County Durham and the A628 in Derbyshire.
Part of the M20 was closed London-bound today because of a jack-knifed lorry while one coastbound lane was closed on the same stretch of road due to another accident.
There were also reports of abandoned vehicles causing obstruction to drivers on other roads.
Many councils warned that their stocks of grit were running low, with Scarborough Borough Council in North Yorkshire revealing it was using sand from the resort's beach to grit pavements in the town.
Emergency measures to alleviate the gritting crisis were put forward to allow Britain's biggest salt mine to supply the country day and night.
By 12.30pm today, the AA had attended around 11,000 breakdowns since midnight.
Among the latest round of mass school closures were more than 300 in Hertfordshire, several hundred in Hampshire and all but one in St Helens, Merseyside.
More than 500 schools were closed in Wales, along with hundreds of others in the North West and North East.
Thousands of children got an extra day's holiday in the Midlands, South West and South East.
The high number of school closures has brought accusations that head teachers were shutting to avoid recording high absence levels – a key factor in Government league tables.
The leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese, said that despite temperatures plummeting to minus 15C in parts of the city, he expects schools to be open today 'unless there are any exceptional circumstances'
And in an email to council members yesterday, he urged parents to find out why their children's schools are shut.
Isolated: Children play in the snow in the village of Cow Ark, Lancashire, which has been cut off by snow for more than three weeks
He wrote: 'School closures are causing concern as many today seem to be unnecessary.
'Apart from a few special cases there is no reason why schools shouldn't be open tomorrow.
'However the decisions are taken at the individual school level so I would suggest that if any school in your ward is closed tomorrow you do contact the head and chair of governors to find out why.'
The closures are having a knock-on effect on other services because parents are having to take annual leave to look after their children, he added.
About 4,000 homes in southern England were still without power today as the weather caused major disruption to electricity supplies.
Householders in parts of Hampshire, Surrey, Oxfordshire and Berkshire are without hot water and are unable to heat their homes or cook food.
A spokesman for Southern Electric said the power failures were caused by the weight of snow or falling trees bringing down overhead lines, triggering safety mechanisms which switch off the circuits.
National Grid said the subzero temperatures had triggered Britain’s biggest-ever use of gas.
As millions kept their central heating on high, a record 453million cubic metres of gas was used, smashing the previous record set in January 2003.