16:06 06 January 2010
As the winter vice tightens its grip on the UK, hospitals are being forced to cancel operations, airports are closing along with schools shutting early and the injury toll is rising as the supplies of gas and grit are falling.
Ten inches of snow (25cm) have fallen across parts of Hampshire, Oxfordshire, West Berkshire, Surrey and Buckinghamshire overnight, as the snow is generally moving more to the south of England.
Over a week of more harsh weather is forecast across the UK, culminating in hazardous driving conditions that are keeping millions out of work.
The highest recorded snowfall so far is 18 inches (47cm) in Aviemore in the Scottish Highlands.
Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Trust has cancelled all operations deemed to be "non-urgent" and outpatient appointments because of the heavy snow.
"We also want to ensure that patients do not feel they have to make unnecessary journeys to our hospitals if their treatment can be postponed until it is safe to travel," a spokesman said.
A rise in emergency admissions has resulted in non-urgent operations and cancer treatments being halted, prompting many hospitals to urge that unless your ailment is severe do not come in.
Sarah Holland, for the Met Office, warned conditions will only get worse as snowfall continues and the temperature drops.
"The snow is now moving eastwards but there is the potential for some places to see another five to 10cm
"Further snow - perhaps up to 2 inches (5cm) - is expected in parts of southern England, including London, between this (Wednesday) evening and tomorrow morning and overnight, temperatures will drop to some 17F - 19F (-7 to -8C) which will create icy surfaces and treacherous driving conditions."
The majority of snow between Thursday and Saturday is expected to fall in the east of the country, before returning to southeastern, southwestern and central areas on Sunday.
The arctic weather is estimated to have cost Britain's businesses an estimated £690 million today (Wednesday) as almost half of workers stayed at home.
Chief Inspector Andy Reeves, head of the roads policing unit, said: "If motorists do have to travel they should take a fully charged mobile phone, food, water and warm clothes with them in case they do get stranded, as quick recovery cannot be guaranteed in severe weather."
Several councils are stating that they are running low on grit as the freezing conditions continue for the third week. But the Government insisted services will "weather the storm".
Lord Mandelson said: "There is something about Britain when it rains or snows - quite why the grit is not there in sufficient scale or leaves on the line or snow flakes in front of the engine... sometimes eludes me.
"But we are now well prepared and both our transport connections and our energy supplies will weather the storm."
All flights are suspended at Gatwick, Bristol, Exeter and London Luton airports while passengers at Southampton, Birmingham, Cardiff, Heathrow, Manchester and Stansted have been warned of delays and possible cancellations.
Train and bus operators have also warned of delays and cancellations across Britain. It is advised that anyone who is travelling should check both their method of transport and their destinations before setting off.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the Government was doing everything possible to keep the country moving: The weather is taking a turn for the worse. We are doing everything possible to keep disruption to a minimum
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