THOUSANDS of children returned to school today as Hampshire began to return to normality following the deluge of snow that brought the county to a near standstill.
Only a handful of schools remained closed as a result of the weather, with 13 still not opening or only partially opening.
News of the break in the weather comes as a welcome relief to emergency services that have been stretched to the limit over the past few days, and businesses that have suffered with staff being unable to make it into work.
Buses were also due to be running a normal services subject to some delays, after First bus cancelled all services in Southampton yesterday morning.
South West Trains was aiming to run a normal service today but warned it would be subject to alterations and cancellations if the weather took a turn for the worse.
Council services including bin collections were due to return to normal with residents whose bins had not been collected in the past two days being advised to put their bins out as normal next week. Green waste collections and bag delivery will recommence on the week of February 16.
According to the Met Office after a chilly start to the day with some risk of icy roads, temperatures should pick up throughout the day with sunny spells expected.
The return to normality means there will be no repeat of the snowy scenes that prompted a mass snowball fight in Southampton.
About 20 snow revellers took to The Common in a snowball fight organised on a social networking website.
Youngsters who did still have to go to school made the most of the snowy playgrounds with pupils at Bassett Green Primary School creating snowmen and using the unusual conditions as part of their lessons.
There were also snowmen a-plenty across the county with hundreds of pictures sent in to the Daily Echo by readers.
In contrast the conditions continued to cause misery for motorists around the county. The A31 ground to a halt in both directions after morning motorists were hit with treacherous conditions. It took some drivers three hours to get from Bournemouth to the M27 at Cadnam.
A lorry and a car both broke down on the westbound A31 at Ringwood, while a group of children were spotted throwing snowballs at cars from a bridge near the town.
Major problems also occurred on the other main route across the Forest – the A35 Lyndhurst to Christchurch road.
One motorist said several vehicles came to grief on a steep hill between the B3058 and the road leading to the Old Station Tea Rooms at Holmsley.
He added: “Hampshire County Council can’t treat every road but the A35 is a main arterial route and should be a priority. The people responsible should be given a rollicking.”
However, a county council spokesman denied that the authority was to blame.
A spokesman said: “We salted main roads on Monday afternoon and again yesterday morning, but the overnight snow was deeper than expected and then froze.”
The spokesman stressed that the A31 was a trunk road and therefore the responsibility of the Highways Agency.
An agency spokesman said: “Everything that could be done on A31 was done.”
Meanwhile a nine car pile up on the M27 left drivers facing long delays yesterday afternoon after two lanes were closed.
The cars all came off the motorway in hazardous driving conditions on the westbound carriageway between junctions five and seven at West End shortly after 12.30pm. Nobody was seriously injured.
Hampshire’s Roads Policing Unit are still urging drivers to remain cautious and ensure their cars are fit for the roads and cleared of snow before setting off.
Passengers bound for Southampton Airport were also being advised to check in as normal after flights suffered delays and cancellations yesterday following the closure of the runway that was reopened by midday.
Despite the expected break in arctic conditions today, the snow is forecast to return towards the end of the week with more snow showers predicted overnight on Thursday and on Friday.