Winter is “still firmly in charge”, a Met Office forecaster has said as Britain prepares for another day of sub-zero temperatures, icy blasts and “blizzard-like conditions”.
It comes as Storm Emma, rolling in from the Atlantic, looks poised to meet the Beast from the East’s chilly Russia air - causing further widespread snowfall and bitter temperatures.
The Met Office has issued a red alert for Scotland, the highest level of weather warning, that is in place until 10am on Thursday with up to 40cm of the white stuff expected in some areas.
Storm Emma, as named by the Portuguese Met service, is coming in from the south and is on collision course with the Beast from the East, looking set to drag more bitter weather to the UK on Friday.
Forecaster Craig Snell said although Thursday marks the first day of meteorological spring, “winter is still firmly in charge across the UK”.
He also warned that extreme weather will grip Britain for another 48 hours.
“The red warning is our highest tier, we don’t often see a red warning - the last one was back in 2016 up in Shetland and Orkney and that was for strong winds,” he said.
“The last time we had the red snow warning was back in 2013 and that was for South Wales - they do not get issued that often.”
Mr Snell revealed that a red warning for snow has never before been issued for Scotland, England or Northern Ireland.
Amber snow warnings have also been issued for North East of England, Yorkshire and the central belt of Scotland, in place between 10am and 8pm on Thursday.
From 12pm on Thursday until 8am on Friday an amber snow and ice warning has also been issued across south west England and south Wales.
On top of these, yellow snow warnings have been issued for vast swathes of southern, central, and northern England, Northern Ireland and Wales - in place for most of Thursday.
In response to the impending heavy snow showers all schools, community centres and libraries in Edinburgh will be closed, the city’s local authority said.
The Met Office website states: “Frequent and heavy snow showers are expected on Wednesday and Thursday leading to some significant accumulations developing.
“Long delays and cancellations on bus, rail and air travel could occur. Roads may become blocked by deep snow, with many stranded vehicles and passengers.
“Some rural communities might be cut off for several days. Long interruptions to power supplies and other services such as telephone and mobile phone networks, could occur.”
The Chief Forecaster’s assessment reads: “Snow showers will bring variable snow cover, but parts of northeast England, Yorkshire and Scotland are expected to see the most frequent snow showers.
“During this time, 5-10 cm of snow is expected quite widely. Where showers become organised though, most likely across Scotland and over the hills of northern England, some places are likely to have an additional 15-25 cm of snow, locally as much as 40 cm.
“Strong winds will lead to drifting of snow and severe wind chill, while lightning could be an additional hazard, particularly near coasts. This warning has been updated to extend the area further west over parts of Scotland.”
Heading into Friday there is a warning that the snow may turn into freezing rain and could “give a glaze of ice” on top any lying snow - making conditions “even more treacherous”.
On Wednesday as icy blasts gripped Britain, a man in his 60s died after being pulled from a lake in Danson Park, south east London that he had fallen into.
Firefighters also rescued a young boy who had tried to run into the middle of a frozen lake and got trapped as the ice broke up at Laindon near Basildon, Essex.
Disruption across the country’s rail and road network is expected to ensue throughout rush hour on Thursday as wintry conditions continue to blight Britain.
Gatwick Airport said due to the severe weather they are “expecting a large number of cancellations and delays to flights”.
Advising those travelling to check the status of their flight with their airline, the airport stressed to passengers “not to travel to the airport if it is cancelled”.
Edinburgh Airport also tweeted to say most airlines have cancelled their operations had cancelled flights from there until lunchtime on Thursday.
Police across the country also advised motorists to avoid driving if possible owing to poor visibility and treacherous conditions.
The Met Office said the highest temperature in the UK on Wednesday was 1.7C recorded in Katesbridge, County Down and the coldest in Braemar, Aberdeenshire at -5.3C.
Mr Snell warned: “Generally many places on Thursday will struggle to get anywhere near -1C, a few people will come up above, but many of us will be firmly below freezing.”