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Yellow warnings for snow and ice will be in place going into the weekend, with plenty of cloud and limited bright spells expected, the Met Office warned.

Theresa May has been forced to move her long-awaited Brexit speech from Newcastle to London, while households are being urged to "carry on cooking" after the National Grid issued a "gas deficit warning", prompting fears of a shortage.

The weather warning, which indicates a threat to life, covers south-west England, South Wales, Somerset and Devon, from 3pm on Thursday to 2am on Friday. Red means you should take action now to keep yourself and others safe from the impact of the weather.

An earlier amber warning has now been withdrawn.

On top of the Amber snow warning in the south west, Mr Snell said there could be 50 to 60mph winds that will bring "blizzard-like conditions".

Travel and public transport disruption is expected, and hundreds of schools across the country have already been closed.

Strengthening winds caused blizzards and drifting snow in some parts, bringing roads to a standstill and leaving commuters facing more travel disruption.

"Long interruptions to power supplies and other utilities are likely to occur". "Around 2-5 cm of snow is expected to fall in places, while some places could see gusts of 50 to 60 miles per hour", the forecaster added.

"So it just re-emphasises that message that people should ask themselves the question 'is this journey absolutely and utterly essential?' - if not, do not travel".

Cars queued back for miles on the A303
Cars queued back for miles on the A303

Chief Superintendent Stewart Carle, head of road policing at Police Scotland, said: "The Met Office has now increased the weather warning to red, the first time this has occurred for snow storms".

Some places could see large build-ups of ice overnight into Friday, and will be accompanied by strong winds coming from the east.

Drivers reported being stranded for up to 13 hours, with some spending the night in their cars, and others abandoning their vehicles on the motorway.

Snow and ice continue to blight the country meaning that conditions are too perilous for many schools, colleges and nurseries to remain open.

The weather also affected flights, with Glasgow Airport suspending all services until lunchtime.

The red severe weather warning for snow in central Scotland expired at 10am on Thursday; however, the amber warning in place across much of the country has now been extended from 6pm on Thursday until 10am on Friday.

"Parts of southwest England and Wales could also see freezing rain for a time on Thursday night - a relatively rare weather phenomena in the UK".

The Irish Republic is also on red alert after being hit by the worst snow in 35 years, with Evelyn Cusack, senior forecaster with Met Eireann, warning 40cm of snow could fall in parts of the east and south.

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