Freezing Britain is facing its coldest winter in three decades with temperatures as low as -18C.
Weathermen yesterday predicted at least 15 days of icy hell with the deepest layers of snow for years in some parts.

The freeze will cause travel chaos for millions returning to work today after Christmas. And charities warned the big chill would put many pensioners at risk.

The Met Office said: "It will be very cold over the next days with severe night frosts and snow. Temperatures could well be in the range of -12C, even -18."

If the Arctic conditions continue through January it will be the coldest winter since the big freeze of 1978/79.

Paul Michaelwaite, forecaster for, said: "It is looking like this winter could be in the top 20 cold winters in the last 100 years.

"It will be very cold for the next 10 days and although there could be a milder spell at some stage the indications are the second half of the month will be even colder."

Joe Bastardi of said: "For Europe as a whole, this next week to 10 days will be as severe as any in the past 20 years." Age Concern and Help the Aged both urged elderly people to take extra precautions to stay warm and keep active.

Dianne Munford, of Age Concern, said: "Our advice is to wrap up well." There were more than 40 crashes on the icy roads yesterday and the AA said there were around 13,000 breakdowns. About five thousand more are expected today as drivers attempt to start cars that have stood idle over the Christmas holidays. AA spokesman Gavin Hill-Smith said: "Cars left sitting idle are particularly vulnerable so we expect a deluge of flat battery-related calls."

Yesterday the lowest UK temperature of -17C was recorded in Braemar, Aberdeenshire. The freezing spell comes after the Met Office predicted a milder than usual winter. And at the start of last year it wrongly forecast a hot "barbecue summer."