EMERGENCY services were last night bracing themselves as forecasters predicted freezing temperatures in Oxfordshire for the rest of the week.

A string of crashes over the weekend, combined with dangerous compacted ice, meant ambulance staff and firefighters were significantly busier than normal.

And now they are preparing for more problems as forecasters said there would be no let-up in the icy conditions.

Met Office spokesman Charlie Powell said the weekend’s snow fall would not thaw quickly.

He said: “It is going to be a slow process for those places that have lying snow. We are not expecting anything to be rapid.

“We are expecting ice to be a continued risk as we head through this week.”

He added that south west Oxfordshire may have snow flurries later today on top of the 8cm of snow already on the ground at Brize Norton and 2cm at Benson yesterday.

South Central Ambulance Service reported a 20 per cent increase in the number of 999 calls it received from 12.01am on Friday to 7pm on Sunday compared to the same period a week earlier.

Its two control centres handled 4,166 emergency calls – an increase of 694 on the previous weekend – 744 of which were about falls and 111 were about road accidents.

James Keating-Wilkes, spokes-man for South Central Ambulance Service, said: “We saw a substantial increase in demand due to the weather – particularly in falls. We would like to thank the public for heeding our advice about driving on ice and snow and then continuing to exercise extreme caution when driving as the cold snap continues.

“Minor roads will be especially treacherous as temperatures fall below freezing.”

Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service took 66 emergency 999 calls on Saturday and Sunday compared to 52 the previous weekend – but its staff were unable to say how many of the call-outs were caused by the bad weather.

They included the rescue of a driver whose lorry ended up in a ditch on the A34 northbound between Bletchingdon and Weston-on-the-Green at 11.01pm on Sunday.

Last night it was not clear how seriously the driver was injured. Just 20 minutes later firefighters were also called to a six-vehicle smash on the slip road to the A40 at junction eight of the M40.

Five people were taken to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital with injuries that were not believed to be serious.

Meanwhile no inquest had yesterday been opened for a 26-year-old woman, named locally as Amy Reynolds, who was killed when her blue VW Golf left the A40 Northern Bypass near Oxford’s Green Road Roundabout in snowy weather on Saturday.

A total of 38 schools were closed or partly closed in Oxfordshire yesterday and there were four which opened later than usual. It follows 238 of 275 county schools closed or partly closed on Friday.

Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley said: “The schools have to take into consideration whether the teachers can get in, whether buses can pick up the children and take them home again.

“But it is up to them whether they close.”

Grandpont mum-of-three Katy Jack, 36, said her children’s school, Littlemore’s Emmanuel Christian School, closed early when the snow arrived on Friday but added: “It just means they had more time to play in the snow.”

Martin Crabtree, spokes-man for the county council, said gritters would continue to go out during the bad weather.

The Met Office could not say when temperatures would be significantly warmer, but it would be at least the weekend before any improvement was felt.

This week daytime temperatures are not expected above 3C with night time lows of -4C.