Wild and wintry weather has swept the UK, with travellers left stranded as heavy snow covered roads and forced two airports to close.
Many motorists simply abandoned their vehicles as drivers became stuck in Sheffield. Traffic was backed up as a blanket of white covered the Prince of Wales Road.
A member of the AA’s Special Operations Response Team tweeted a picture from the scene shortly before midnight: “Prince of Wales Rd, #Sheffield around 30 mins ago! Lots of abandoned vehicles locally! #uksnow”.
Wiriting on the social networking site at around 2.30am one driver said he had been in a queue for more than four hours.
Motorists have been advised to check ahead before travelling, and in some parts to avoid journeys unless they are essential.
A coachload of people travelling from Sheffield to London had to take refuge in a church after their bus became stuck in the snow before leaving the south Yorkshire city, passenger Chloe McIntosh told the BBC.
She said: “Some people from the houses nearby have come and offered us tea. Then they opened up the church.”
Both Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport and Leeds Bradford International in Yorkshire closed while their runways were cleared of snow as a band of wet weather crossed the country from Merseyside and north Wales through the Midlands and Yorkshire.
Leek, near the Peak District in Staffordshire, saw the worst of the snow with 10cm (4 in), the Met Office said, with Cranwell in Lincolnshire also seeing 7cm (2.75 in).
Four flights into Liverpool from Malta, Berlin and Bucharest were diverted to Manchester Airport, while a fifth from the Isle of Man returned to the island’s airport as the Merseyside hub was closed for more than an hour while its runway was cleared of snow, a John Lennon Airport spokesman said.
The airport is open again but he said knock-on disruption was expected, adding: “We have had quite a deluge here.”
Leeds Bradford was also forced to halt flights, with a notice on its website last night saying: “As a result of adverse weather conditions, Leeds Bradford International Airport is presently closed.
“We recommend you contact your airline or tour operator and check the status of your flight before arriving at the airport.”
Police warned of hazardous conditions last night, especially in Staffordshire and Cheshire, with several roads made impassable.
Staffordshire Police tweeted: “Reports of difficult road conditions across Staffordshire due to snow, Please only travel tonight if necessary.”
Cheshire Police added: “Roads around Delamere/Frodsham looking quite treacherous due to weather, Please drive with care.”
Leicestershire Police tweeted: “Snow causing disruption in the north of the county. Please only travel if absolutely necessary and avoid A1 as large vehicles are stuck.”
Snow had been predicted to fall in parts of north Wales, the North West and the Midlands, with a Met Office Level Three amber cold weather alert in place and a yellow warning of snow across a large swathe of the UK since yesterday morning.
A Met Office spokeswoman said that the Pennines and Peak District also saw plenty of snow, adding: “The snow is probably peaking at the moment.
“It should ease off over the course of the next few hours.”
Scores of people went on Twitter to show where snow was falling, including John Lennon Airport, Staffordshire and Yorkshire, with reports from as far east as Cambridgeshire.
The snow made conditions difficult for some of yesterday’s football matches, including in the West Midlands as West Bromwich Albion lost 3-1 to Manchester City in a game played in a blizzard at The Hawthorns.
The Met Office had earlier said there was a 90% chance of severe cold, ice or snow in parts of England between this afternoon and New Year’s Eve.
An area including Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, the Midlands, East Anglia, the North West, Yorkshire and as far south east as London and Kent has been put on a separate yellow alert for snow by the Met Office.
Christmas night was the coldest night of the year so far, with minus 8.5C (16.7F) recorded at Braemar in Aberdeenshire.
Temperatures could also drop as low as minus 10C (14F) in some places at the start of next week as the cloud and wet weather gives way to clearer skies.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “As winter weather grips some areas of the country we would advise people intending to travel to check weather and local conditions before they set out.
“The Highways Agency and local highway authorities across the country are working hard to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.
“Passengers travelling into or out of Kings Cross affected by over running engineering work should check with National Rail Enquiries for service information.”