UK facing snow threat amid freeze
The UK is braced for snow this weekend as temperatures plunge, raising fears for the wellbeing of elderly people.
Forecasters expect a cold front to sweep south and east across the UK from the west at the weekend, resulting in snow where milder air meets cold air.
Age UK wants people to check on elderly neighbours and relatives to ensure they stay warm as temperatures fall.
About 25,000 to 30,000 deaths are linked to the cold weather in the UK every year, according to NHS figures.
The cold snap has seen daytime temperatures fall four or five degrees lower than average for February.
This week temperatures have fallen as low as -6.2C in Pershore, Worcestershire, -6.1C in South Farnborough, Hampshire, and -5.7C in Hurn, Dorset.
BBC Weather forecaster Steve Cleaton said: "We are set for a period of wintry weather over the weekend.
"A weather front that is over the Atlantic at the moment will slowly move in from the west over the early part of Saturday and will continue to move east through the day and into Sunday. This front will create a mix of rain and snow.
"Places across the north and west of the UK are more likely to see rain. Areas to the south of the Humber are at the greatest risk of seeing snow during Saturday afternoon and overnight to Sunday."
Southern and eastern parts of the UK were most at risk of seeing snow, he said.
Meanwhile, the Met Office said the cold weather "could increase the health risks to vulnerable patients and disrupt the delivery of services".
Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, echoed these sentiments, stressing that winter could be "a dangerous time for older people".
She said: "Many people believe that the only risk of winter weather is getting a cold, but the risk is much greater.
"Low temperatures raise blood pressure, which puts people at a greater risk of heart attacks and strokes, as well as increasing the likelihood and severity of flu and other respiratory problems.
"We want older people to be able to enjoy the winter and, most importantly of all, stay well."
Wildlife charity the RSPB has warned that wild birds will struggle to find their natural food supplies under frost and snow.
It said falling temperatures meant birds would come to gardens to find extra meals.
Tom Waters, the charity's spokesman, said: "Although it has come late this season, the sudden drop in temperatures will be a huge shock to birds.
"They become more vulnerable in the cold and are likely to appear in higher numbers in our gardens over the next few days. The best way you can help is by putting out food and water."
He said people could provide food, water and shelter to ease the challenges faced by birds.
Heavy snow has caused disruption across Europe, affecting much of Italy to the south and Turkey to the east.
The cold weather has caused more than 100 deaths on the Continent, mainly in Ukraine and Poland.
Forecasters say the cold snap in mainland Europe is due to an area of high pressure that has extended across the Continent from Siberia and is expected to reach its peak at the weekend.
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