Unseasonally heavy snow and blizzard conditions across the West Midlands caused chaos today with scores of schools shut and major problems for commuters on the roads and trams.
Up to six inches of snow fell across the region overnight causing severe disruption that left around 3,000 homes in the region without power.
The unseasonal winter temperatures are in stark contrast to last year, when the country was basking in sunshine and revellers sunbathing in temperatures of up to 15.4C (59.7F).
Motorways were particularly treacherous today, with two lanes closed on the M6 southbound between junction 10a for Essington and 10 Walsall after a crash at around 9am.
It came after the M6 temporarily closed southbound between junctions 10 for Walsall and nine for Wednesbury when a van overturned causing problems.
One lane was closed northbound on the M6 following an accident between junction 14 north of Stafford and junction 15 at around 7.40am with slow moving traffic.
Gritters went out across across the region from early yesterday evening to try and clear the roads.
But driving conditions remained hazardous, with snow and slush causing problems on busy roads.
Dozens of schools were shut - click here to see full list
Children at St Paul’s Primary in Tipton, along with Albion mascot Baggie Bird, were due to do a sponsored walk today for Birmingham Children’s Cancer Care Unit, but this has now been cancelled and will be rearranged for a later date.
All football matches which were due to take place in Sandwell Council-owned parks and open spaces this weekend have now been cancelled, due to the icy conditions. Referees in Wolverhampton have been asked to decide themselves whether to cancel any matches or not.
Walsall Council also said it would not be picking up brown bins today and advised residents who grey and green bins are not collected to put them out again next week. Three extra bags of rubbish will also be accepted.
People hoping to use the Midland Metro to avoid the roads were dealt a blow when it was forced to run a shuttle service between Priestfield and Wednesbury Parkway due to a system failure at Wolverhampton.
Snow began to fall late last night, and became heavier throughout the night as temperatures dropped to around -1C (31F). To make matters worse, the mercury now looks unlikely to rise before the Easter holiday next weekend.
Forecaster James Wilby said: “It is really just nasty conditions across most of the UK. The heavy rain, snow and strong winds will continue into the weekend. And there is no sign of things getting any better next week.”
Western Power Distribution said 3,000 homes in a number of areas across the West Midlands were without power as a result of the weather conditions. Among the areas affected were Telford and Stoke-On-Trent.
Council gritting and ploughing teams were out in force to try to ensure main roads remained passable where snow and freezing temperatures had been forecast.
Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association’s economy and transport board, said hundreds of thousands of tonnes of salt had been spread this winter, but hundreds of thousands more tonnes were available in council depots and new deliveries were coming in.
Nationally, emergency services have already responding to a surge in weather-related call-outs with Government agencies issuing a string of warnings urging the public to take care on the roads.
And holidaymakers looking to make an early getaway before the Easter holidays were dealt an early blow when Leeds Bradford International Airport suspended all flights due to “adverse weather conditions”, but there were no immediate problems at Birmingham Airport.
The Met Office has issued a number of severe weather warnings urging the public to be prepared for “severe disruption” to transport and energy services.
The Environment Agency has 18 flood alerts in place along the south-west coast, with a further 80 alerts issued to areas at risk. Between 1.6 to 2.4 inches was set to fall over southern Devon and Cornwall today.
The AA issued warnings to motorists that even short journeys could be difficult, and there could be a repeat of the scenes in southern England last week when hundreds of drivers were stranded in their cars overnight.
Darron Burness, the AA’s head of special operations, said: “It’s going to be a real witch’s brew of driving wind, rain and snow.”
The warnings come just over a week before the start of British Summer Time.