BRITAIN faces a historic CHRISTMAS WHITEOUT with “dangerous” blizzards and near record-low temperatures threatening the worst festive freeze for half a century.
Violent and “deadly” Arctic storms will rage into the start of 2017 as thermometers nudge -20C triggering outbreaks of crippling snow.
Heavy and persistent wintry showers are now a near certainty across the UK on Christmas Day with multiple feet-deep snowdrifts lasting into the New Year amid sub-zero conditions.
Britons are warned to expect “major chaos” on the roads and transport networks with extreme weather threatening railway services and airports.
Councils, health and transport officials have been warned to expect the unexpected with this year shaping up to rival the historic chiller of 1963 – the coldest winter on record.
Government officials have sought to allay public fears insisting grit and salt supplies will be enough to keep the roads moving.
Long-range experts are closely monitoring a volatile combination of environmental factors which threaten to trigger the first Christmas big freeze in years.
Weakening winds around the Arctic region – the so-called Polar vortex – have started to open the floodgates for a pool of freezing air which will gradually engulf Britain.
Falling temperatures in the East Pacific leading to a La Nina ocean cooling and changes to Atlantic waters have also been blamed.
A widespread White Christmas would be the first since the big freeze of 2010 which saw Britain grind to a halt over the holiday season.
Thousands of air and rail passengers were left stranded for days after snow and ice brought Britain’s transport networks to a standstill.
Piers Corbyn, forecaster for WeatherAction, said there is a 90-per cent chance of extreme snowfall across Scotland and the northeast this Christmas with between a 50 and 70-per cent chance elsewhere.
The West Country is the only region which could escape snow although the region has a 50 per cent chance of a flurry on Christmas Day.
Mr Corbyn said: “We expect snow showers, blizzards and thundersnow at times in Scotland, the north and the Midlands over the Christmas period threatening major road and air travel disruption.
“Christmas Day could well see major blizzards over land with storms out to sea which could reach hurricane force.
“Through to the end of December we expect further blizzards and bitter winds in Scotland and northern England.”
Long-range experts say this winter is shaping up to be the worst for at least six years after five successive mild seasons.
The Met Office said below-average temperatures are possible until February with an exceptionally bitter start to winter now a threat.
Despite autumn coming to an end last week, Britain has already had the first major cold spell of the season.
Extreme weather at the end of November saw thermometers drop to -12C in parts of the country triggering a raft of health and severe weather warnings.
Experts have warned vulnerable and elderly people not to be lulled into a false sense of security by the previous mild winters.
This year is already showing worrying similarities to 1962/63 including early cold weather triggered by high pressure over Scandinavia early in the season.
By the end of December 1962 blizzards were treating across Britain leaving impassible 20-feet snow drifts and bringing down power lines.
Snow remained for up to two months after the initial fall due to sub-zero temperatures which refused to lift.
Exacta Weather’s James Madden warned the mercury could dip to -20C by the end of the year triggering “snow event after snow event”.
He said: “December is now likely to follow a cold and snowy weather pattern across many parts of the country.
“Colder conditions will be accompanied by potentially countrywide snow events particularly around the periods of the 12th to the 17th and the 21st to the 29th of December.
“Over the next few weeks there is a very high risk for snow event after snow event across the country, with temperatures dipping as low or exceeding -20C.”
The Local Government Association (LGA) has said teams are at the ready to “protect” millions of people at risk from severe weather.
Transport spokesman Martin Tett has urged Britons to keep an eye on elderly and vulnerable friends and neighbours through the winter.
He said: “Councils are fully prepared to protect residents and minimise disruption to their residents caused by the drop in temperatures.
“We are well prepared for the cold with 1.2 million tonnes of salt stockpiled and a fleet of state-of-the-art gritters ready to be deployed.
“As well as gritting our roads and clearing snow, council teams are ready to be drafted in to help provide a variety of services to ensure we are looking out for the more vulnerable members of our communities this winter.
“But council staff can’t be everywhere, they rely on community-spirited residents to look out for each other.
“Just a quick knock on the door of an elderly neighbour who’s perhaps too proud or unable to ask for help can make all the difference.
“Local authorities will be constantly updating websites with information on weather, gritting routes, road conditions, school closures and bin collections.”
Bookies have been forced to slash the odds on snow this Christmas after a surge of bets triggered by recent cold weather.
Coral is offering 1-4 for snow anywhere with 3-1 for Aberdeen; 4-1 Edinburgh; 5-1 Manchester; 6-1 Belfast, Birmingham and London and 8-1 on snow in Cardiff, Wales.
Spokesman John Hill said: “The cold freeze has prompted a huge gamble on this being the coldest winter on record in the UK which is now odds-on following the support in the betting.”
Ladbrokes is offering 4-1 on Christmas snow in London with Aberdeen at 2-1; Edinburgh 2-1; Glasgow 2-1; Newcastle 3-1; London 4-1; Liverpool 5-1; Manchester 5-1; Cardiff 6-1 and Birmingham 6-1.
Spokeswoman Jessica Bridge said: “Winter’s coming, and the odds are falling as quick as the temperature’s dropping, leaving punters already dreaming of a White Christmas.”
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