Two major airports in the UK have been forced to close because of heavy snowfall as yellow weather warnings cover large parts of the UK.
Road users in South East England were urged by National Highways not to travel unless it was essential due to heavy snow already falling on Sunday evening, with up to 10cm forecast.
The snowy weather has also led to some school closures across the country, with some in Gloucestershire, Devon and London already announcing they will be shut on Monday.
On Sunday evening, snow forced Stansted Airport to close its runway while it was cleared of snow, with all flights suspended.
The airport said: “London Stansted Airport’s runway is currently closed to allow for snow clearance due to weather conditions and all flights are currently suspended.
“Delays to flights were experienced earlier due to de-icing of aircraft which is a ground handler’s responsibility and safety of aircraft and passengers is paramount. Passengers are advised to check with their airline for current status of their flights.”
Gatwick Airport was also forced to shut its runway due to “unforecast snow”, causing disruption to hundreds of flights.
More than 30 flights heading for Gatwick touched down at airports as far away as Amsterdam and Manchester, while many others were simply told their flights were cancelled.
Earlier on Sunday, a shortage of de-icing equipment at the Sussex airport caused a series of cancellations and long delays, and by late afternoon snow forced dozens of diversions – with arrivals from Dubai and Stockholm landing in Amsterdam and other flights scattered around UK airports from Bournemouth to Liverpool.
The most extreme cancellations were at London City Airport also faced major disruption with 34 flights – the vast majority of departures – grounded, and inbound aircraft diverted to Norwich, Birmingham and Cardiff. Some planes simply turned around and went back to their starting points in Luxembourg, Edinburgh and Milan.
Hundreds more flights are expected to be cancelled on Monday as wintry weather continues. Airports are urging passengers booked to fly on Monday to check before going to the airport that their flight is actually operating.
British Airways alone has grounded more than 70 short-haul flights to and from London Heathrow on Monday. Destinations with multiple cancellations include Belfast, Edinburgh, Milan, Zurich and Barcelona.
It comes as temperatures in the UK could plummet to a chilly -10C in parts of the country overnight.
The Met Office has issued yellow weather warnings, with parts of the country forecast to see snow and ice until Thursday.
Kent is being particularly hard hit with snow severely impacting the M2, M20 around junctions 8 and 9, the A21 and A249 – with drivers struggling to get through, National Highways said.
Its duty operations manager for the region Gina Oxley said: “We have been out gritting throughout the afternoon and we’re continuing to treat routes so we can reach the worst affected areas and support our customers with their journeys.
“For anyone thinking of travelling tonight, our advice would be not to unless absolutely essential as heavy snow is expected to continue until 9am tomorrow.”
Road users in Cornwall are also advised not to travel on Monday due to the treacherous weather.
Over the weekend, the region’s fire and rescue service control centre dealt with more than 300 reports of road traffic accidents linked to ice.
Warwickshire Police have also issued a warning, instructing motorists to avoid driving near the village of Halford “unless it is a life or death emergency”. On Sunday afternoon, there were nine collisions in the area, forcing two roads to close.