By Shaun Milne and Cara Sulieman
SCOTLAND was in the grip of a white hell last night – with little hope of any respite going into Christmas.
Police pleaded with people to stay and home and not travel as the country was hit by yet more snow storms.
The Met Office was forced to issue at least two severe weather warnings as blizzard conditions hit parts of the country.
In some areas temperature plunged to as low as minus 16 degrees.
Ice and treacherous driving conditions was said to be affecting the entire road network as gritting contractors struggled to clear routes.
Visibility on Scotland’s main motorway the M8 towards West Lothian was extremely poor with reports of motorists abandoning cars.
Conditions on the Edinburgh City Bypass were said to extremely hazardous in places with numerous break downs adding to the complications.
Lorries were reported to have jack-knifed at various locations.
Even routes in the city centre were affected with the likes of Lothian Road, Stockbridge and other key areas badly affected leading some to ask how prepared road chiefs had been.
But the council insisted they had been working overnight to clear the roads, and were simply overwhelmed by the snow.
A spokesman for Edinburgh City Council said: “We had teams out overnight in anticipation of the weather being bad.
“We had a full compliment of staff out on the morning shift. We’re bringing in extra staff as well to make sure the roads are safe for people.”
Flights airports across the country including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Glasgow were subject to late cancellation.
Edinburgh Airport had to close for an hour yesterday morning to clear the snow that had gathered – delaying some flights.
A BAA spokeswoman said: “The airport was shut yesterday morning (Weds) to clear the runway but was reopened after about an hour.
“Before then it had been operating normally. As few flights are delayed but the airport has been running normally.”
But there was drama at Prestwick – which normally avoids the bad weather – when a Ryanair flight skidded off the runway while taxiing to the terminal.
Luckily no-one was hurt but the airport was closed while the aircraft was removed from the runway.
Train services were also affected not just by the weather directly, but because of drivers and staff struggling to get in for their shifts.
Police, the RAC, the AA and local councils were all swamped with calls from people needing help.
Lothian and Borders Police were so overwhelmed with calls from members of the public seeking advice that they urged them to contact Travel Scotland instead as they couldn’t deal with the demand.
Hospitals were standing by to receive any casualties affected by the cold or who suffered accidents in the hellish conditions.
A woman found frozen close to death earlier in the week was still fighting for her life in hospital.
While safety groups urged parents to ensure that children off school for the holidays were made aware about the dangers of frozen ponds and canals.
And schoolchildren in West Lothian got an early holiday as the schools shut on what was supposed to be the last day before Christmas.
Yet mid the gloom, some were benefiting.
DIY stores and garden centres reported surge in sales of snow shovels, road salt and heaters as customers looked to fight back.
Sold out sledges
Outdoor stores including Tiso and Trespass in Edinburgh said sales of gloves, hats and heavy duty winter clothing were all up.
Both stores had sold of sledges before yesterday’s (Weds) big snowfall, and had people coming through the doors for waterproof clothing.
A spokesman for Trespass said that they were expecting a post-snow rush on the purchase of ski-related gear.
He said: “When there’s been snow we see a lot of people coming in buying ski equipment because the weather has reminded them how much fun a ski holiday can be.”
Last night the Met Office issued further updates.
A Met Office spokeswoman said: “It was -5.4 Celsius in Edinburgh through Tuesday night to Wednesday morning.
“As of 9am yesterday (Weds) 7cm of snow had fallen at the airport.
“Temperatures yesterday got up to freezing during the day and last night (Weds – Thurs) it was -8 Celsius in Edinburgh and as low as -10 Celsius in rural areas.
“Today (Thurs) it may not get above freezing with temperatures staying around -1 or -2 Celsius. Looks like it is going to be dry and frosty and icy.”
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