The Met Office has this afternoon stepped up the number of severe weather warnings for later this week as a huge snow storm and hurricane-strength winds threaten to cause severe disruption.
A huge band of snow
is forecast to sweep across most of the UK from the West Midlands, through the North West of England and across the whole of Scotland.
At the same time, hurricane-strength winds of up to 80 miles per hour (mph) are forecast to batter Scotland and the East coast of England as far south as East Anglia.
Weather experts says polar weather is being pulled south across the UK and the freezing temperatures are likely to last until at least the end of the week.
Met Office forecaster Dan Williams said: "From Thursday evening, there is a snow risk as far south as Birmingham – the furthest south snow has been forecast this winter. The guidance is for perhaps 20 cm-30cm on hills and five to 10cm at lower levels. Snow which falls overnight is more likely to settle.
"With strong winds and possible heavy snow showers, people should be aware of very difficult weather conditions including potential blizzards and transport impacts including drifting.
"Winds will be strong through Wednesday in Scotland and on Thursday and Friday morning as far south as East Anglia, with 60-70mph gusts and 80mph in exposed areas, more likely in Scotland.
"North-westerly winds are pulling fairly cold air down from the polar regions.
"Saturday will see frost and widespread road ice on untreated roads, with wintry showers for the whole of the UK apart from the south-east.
"Sunday will be slightly milder but could still see wintry showers on ground over 400 metres in the north."
The yellow snow alert for the North West of England and the West Midlands, which is valid from 6pm on Thursday until midnight on Friday, warns: "Snow showers are expected late on Thursday and through Friday. The public should be aware that these will be heavy at times, and may give significant accumulations that could disrupt travel
. Gale or severe gale force northwesterly winds will accompany the snow showers, perhaps leading to drifting over high ground, but these winds will slowly moderate during Friday.
"The public are advised to take extra care."
The alert for strengthening winds from Thursday afternoon warns of the possibility of structural damage and advises there is a low risk of flooding along the North Sea coastline.
Only London, the South East and the South West will escape the worst of the weather.
Transport Scotland's Multi Agency Response Team (MART) will remain open until at least Friday night in response to the predicted worsening weather conditions, Scotland's Transport Minister Keith Brown announced today.
Speaking after a meeting of the Scottish Government's Resilience Room, Mr Brown said with more severe weather forecast for the rest of the week the opening hours of MART - which involves the police, rail operators, road operating companies and the Met Office – would be extended.
Mr Brown said: "It's been a testing start to the week for many commuters and the decision to extend MART until at least the end of the week makes sense. Lessons are always being learned and we are continuing to prepare for the next phase of severe weather. Disruption can never be ruled out but we have already taken a wide range of steps to ensure that Scotland is as well prepared as it can be.
"An incident involving an HGV is not easily or quickly resolved. Specialist heavy duty plant is required to move or recover HGVs and the recovery time can be prolonged. We have worked together with the Road Haulage Association and Freight Transport Association to update guidance on planning for severe weather.
"A Freight Scotland Hotline has also been introduced so that HGV drivers can contact the Traffic Scotland Operator and inform them of traction problems they experience on the network, to help inform treatment priorities of operating companies.
"I would urge the public to continue listening to radio reports and checking the Traffic Scotland website for updates. Operating companies, the emergency services and other key services are working around the clock but with more treacherous conditions expected for the remainder of the week we are doing everything we can to keep Scotland moving.
"We are currently using an average of 130 gritter vehicles a day that will continue to treat trunk roads. However if disruption does occur then we must ensure our response is as effective as possible. We appreciate the patience of those who have been caught up in travel disruption this week."