Families planning last minute shopping trips and visits to their relatives have been warned to brace themselves for more snow and plummeting temperatures in the run up to Christmas as a second wave of wintry weather is set to paralyse Britain.
Biting winds sweeping in from the Arctic are expected to blanket the country once again in snow and lead to temperatures dropping to as low as -15C.
The combination of 50mph blasts and eight inches of snow could even lead to snow drifts blocking roads and railways, cutting off villages and schools.
The icy weather, which is due to start this Thursday and could last into the New Year, will bring to an end a brief respite in weather which has seen more typical milder temperatures.
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The thaw and "settled quiet weather" allowed shoppers to spend up to £2.5 billion on Christmas presents in just 48 hours, experts said.
Frustrated present-buyers, previously kept away from High Streets by icy roads and pavements, made up for lost time as millions shoppers in the UK each spent an average of £50 on Christmas gifts.
But shoppers may have to resort to using the internet again next weekend.
Unlike during the first cold spell, the next batch of snow will be accompanied by winds from the North Pole of up to 50mph. Even though temperatures will not fall much below -5 C, the windchill will make them feel much colder.
The Met Office predict that the weather could be with us until the New Year although long term forecasts are notoriously difficult.
"The main thing to get across to the public is how cold it is going to feel with the high winds," said forecaster Tom Morgan.
"The week will start off with rain but as it gets colder it will turn to snow."
Forecaster Brian Gaze, of The Weather Outlook, said: “The cold eased in recent days but will return with a vengeance, starting with possible sleet or snow in the south east on Monday and Tuesday.
“It will turn much colder from Wednesday, with a northerly airstream bringing bitterly-cold Arctic air.
“Snowfalls are very likely, with accumulations of eight inches a distinct possibility in the north, while winds are likely to lead to snowdrifts.
“The cold is expected to cover the whole country by Friday. There could be heavy falls of snow almost anywhere.
“If the Met Office outlook is correct, with the cold going into January, this really will be a sensational cold spell.”
“The cold spell looks like it will last, with further rain, sleet or snow for much of the country around Christmas.”
A Met Office forecast warned about snowdrifts.
“Hill snow will sweep south on Thursday, followed by wintry showers turning mostly to snow over the weekend, especially in exposed northern, eastern and western parts," it said.
“Significant accumulations are likely in places – and with strong winds, there is a significant risk of drifting.
“Temperatures will be very cold, with widespread frost and icy stretches in places.
“Christmas week will have further wintry showers and freezing fog, and from Boxing Day to January 9, there will be further wintry showers and perhaps longer outbreaks of snow.
“Temperatures will be below average for much of the UK, although there will be milder spells with rain rather than snow in the south.”
The cold end to the month could mean that this December could be one of the coldest on record. Records show that the first week was the second coldest since 1772.
It has led to a surge of bookings for overseas holidays, according to travel companies.
Holiday firm Travel Counsellors reported a 20 per cent increase in bookings, with a large rise in the number of people opting for a break over Christmas and into January.
See also: Return of the big freeze: Another EIGHT inches of snow to hit Britain this week
- Daily Mail