Major incident declared as UK temperatures drop to -10C and Brits told 'eat hot food' and wear layers to keep warm

7 December 2022, 09:54 | Updated: 9 December 2022, 14:08

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Major incident declared as Brits told to prepare for -10C
Major incident declared as Brits told to prepare for -10C. Picture: Alamy/Met Office

By James Hockaday

A major incident has been declared after thousands of people were left without gas as Britons were warned to brace for an icy cold snap with temperatures expected to plunge as low as -10C overnight.

Around 2,000 homes in the Stannington area of Sheffield have been left without gas for days after a burst water main damaged a gas pipe, sending hundreds of thousands of litres of water into the gas network.

In London, Mayor Sadiq Khan triggered the capital's first severe weather emergency protocol of the winter to provide emergency accommodation for homeless people as the mercury drops as low as -3C.

After a mild start to the winter, a big dip affecting the whole country is expected to begin tonight, with the Met Office issuing yellow weather warnings for parts of Wales, Northern Ireland, England's east coast, northern Scotland and the Western Isles.

Official health advice urges people to take the cold spell seriously, with the UK Health and Security Agency (UKHSA) recommending people warm their homes to at least 18C.

For those who are struggling with the cost of living crisis, people are being advised to heat living rooms during the day, and bedrooms before going to sleep to cut heating bills.

The UKHSA's guidance also tells people to eat hot food to keep warm.

It adds: "Wearing several layers of thinner clothing will keep you warmer than one thicker layer. Having plenty of hot food and drinks is also effective for keeping warm."

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Cold with snow and ice to come in Met Office forecast

Snowfall In Penistone
Snow and ice are expected in some areas after a mild start to the winter. Picture: Getty

Warnings of plummeting temperatures come as a major incident is declared in Sheffield after a suburb was left without gas for five days.

Around 2,000 homes in the Stannington area of the South Yorkshire city were affected on Friday when a burst water main damaged a gas pipe, sending hundreds of thousands of litres of water into the gas network. 

More than 100 engineers from gas firm Cadent have been working in Stannington and neighbouring Hillsborough since the weekend, going house to house to flush water out of the system and check homes, some of which saw liquid pouring from their gas meters and appliances.

By declaring a major incident, services can be more concentrated in one area and resources co-ordinated more effectively to keep people safe.

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Sheffield City Council chief executive Kate Josephs said community buildings, including a pub, were available for those struggling to keep warm.

Consultant in public health medicine at UKHSA, Dr Agostinho Sousa, said: "Cold weather can have serious consequences for health, and older people and those with heart or lung conditions can be particularly at risk.

"If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you should heat your home to a temperature that is comfortable for you.

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"Try to heat the rooms you use most, such as the living and bedroom, to at least 18°C if you can and keep your bedroom windows closed at night."

Met Office forecaster Oli Claydon said that conditions are "set to get colder through the week", and while northern Scotland will experience the worst of it, the whole of the UK will feel the chill.

He predicted overnight lows of -10, or even -11 in rural parts of Scotland, where snow is likely to fall, and -6 in rural parts of England.

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Energy bill stock Alamy
People struggling with the cost of living crisis are urged to focus on heating the rooms they're using. Picture: Alamy. Picture: Alamy

Cold conditions are expected to drag on through the weekend, said Mr Claydon, but he said there were signs of warmer weather moving in from the South West from Tuesday next week.

“But the signs are that the cold weather will hold in the north of the UK, so there will be a split between north and south,” he added.

People should expect snow showers and ice to cause travel disruption and a risk of slippery surfaces, with warnings to remain in place until Thursday afternoon.

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Age UK has advised maintaining a supply of food and medicine to reduce the number of outdoor trips and torches with spare batteries in case of a power cut.

Homeless people in London are to be sheltered after the Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP) was activated for the first time this winter to provide emergency accommodation for rough sleepers.

Parts of London will drop as low as minus three during the week, with mayor Sadiq Khan warning too many face sleeping on streets without safe accommodation.

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All boroughs have committed to the Mayor’s “In for Good” principle, meaning no-one will be asked to leave accommodation until a support plan is in place to end their rough sleeping, regardless of an increase in temperature.

Latest figures show the number of people sleeping rough in London has jumped 24% in the past year, with more than 3,600 sleeping on the capital’s streets between June and September.

Mr Khan said: “Too many people are facing a freezing winter on the streets of the capital without the safe, secure accommodation they need.

“Across the capital, we are doing everything we can to prevent anyone sleeping rough in these freezing conditions as we work to build a fairer and safer London for everyone.

“I am also encouraging Londoners to download the Streetlink app or use the Streetlink website to connect people they see sleeping rough with local support services."