Severe weather warnings have been issued as the second Big Freeze of the season puts the country on course for a winter even colder than the notoriously treacherous 1962-63.
North-westerly parts of the country got a sneak preview today of the freezing weather to come. At 9am, West Scotland was still shivering at -7c while the mercury stood at -3c in north-west England
Large swathes of the country were today issued with severe weather warnings, with ice and snow expected to make driving conditions treacherous from Thursday onwards.
A spokesman for the Met Office said: 'A band of rain and snow will move southwards across Scotland and Northern Ireland during the early hours of Thursday with widespread icy surfaces then rapidly developing, potentially around the morning rush-hour period.
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'This risk will also extend into northern England. Heavy snow showers will then spread to areas exposed to the strong northerly wind.'
Temperatures on Thursday night will drop to between -3c and -6c, according to MeteoGroup.
Forecaster Aisling Creevey said: 'We've had a little bit of a reprieve over the last few days - pretty much everywhere is at risk from snow and icy conditions as the temperature drops on Thursday.
'And temperatures could be down to -10c in Scotland and to -4c and -5c across the country overnight on Friday.'
Snow is set to feature throughout the weekend.
David Price, a forecaster for the Met Office, said there would be 5cm-10cm of snow over much of the country, with some higher areas of Scotland facing as much as 20cm.
Looking further ahead Jonathan Powell, a forecaster with Positive Weather Solutions, said: 'Our models are showing we will see a white Christmas. The most likely places to have one are Scotland, north-east England, the east coast, the South East and London. It's going to happen.'
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Temperatures will plummet tomorrow and will stay bitterly cold for the next month, forecasters have warned.