A rare blast of heavy freezing rain is set to hit the UK as most of the country braces for severe weather, ranging from blizzards and snow in the north to gales and showers in the south.
Ice will be widespread on roads, pavements, trees and other structures on Saturday and Sunday, according to the Met Office, which has issued an amber warning for freezing rain for parts of Scotland and England.
It said freezing rain is rare in the UK but it can be "very severe" when it falls and rapidly coats roads and pavements with "incredibly slippery" black ice.
Drivers and pedestrians have been urged to take care on untreated surfaces, as forecasters warn that the conditions could disrupt travel and cut power if lines snap under the weight of ice.
Meanwhile, an amber warning for heavy snow and blizzards is now in place for parts of Scotland, where up to 16ins could fall in less than 24 hours this weekend.
Most of the country is under a mix of amber and yellow warnings for snow, ice, gales or rain which threaten to cause chaos for millions.
The amber warning for freezing rain is in place from 10am on Saturday to 6am on Sunday.
The Met Office said: "Heavy freezing rain is expected to develop during Saturday.
"This will result in the rapid formation of widespread ice on roads, pavements, trees and other structures.
"Freezing rain is rare in the United Kingdom but when it does occur the impacts can be very severe.
"This is due to the fact that it can form very quickly, it can be difficult to see and is incredibly slippery.
"Some sleet and snow is possible over the very highest ground and the freezing rain may also be followed by a spell of sleet and snow as the precipitation clears from the west.
"The freezing rain and sleet and snow will be accompanied by strong southeasterly winds which will pose an additional hazard to travel, in particular over high ground."
It said the dangers include:
- Injuries from slips and falls and danger to life on icy surfaces are likely
- Black ice may form quickly affecting bus, train and air travel
- Dangerous driving conditions are likely leading to road traffic collisions, road closures and longer journey times
- Pavements and cycle paths likely to become instantly impassable because of the sudden formation of black ice
- Power and other services, such as telephone and mobile phone coverage, likely to be interrupted or cut
The Met Office said the amber warning for freezing rain is in place for the following regions:
Scotland: Central, Tayside and Fife, SW and Lothian Borders, Strathclyde.
England: East Midlands, North East, North West, West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber.
Meanwhile, the amber warning for heavy snow and blizzards will run from 9am on Saturday to 6am on Sunday for the following areas in Scotland: Central, Tayside and Fife, Grampian, Highlands and Eilean Siar and Strathclyde.
The Met Office said: "A period of prolonged and heavy snow is expected to develop through Saturday morning, before clearing from the west through Sunday morning. 5-10 cm of snow is likely widely across the area, whilst some areas could see 20 cm, perhaps as much as 40cm over higher ground.
"Strong south-esaterly winds will lead to temporary blizzard conditions as well as drifting of lying snow."
This weekend, a yellow warning for snow and ice will be in place across most of Scotland and England.
A yellow warning for rain and wind will be in place across Northern Ireland, south-western England and parts of South Wales.
The Met Office has issued a yellow warning for wind over the Northern Isles and parts of Caithness, where gusts could hit 70mph.
Met Office five-day forecast
Cold, dry and sunny for many after a frosty start. Cloud will occasionally drift into eastern areas, with the odd coastal shower. Western most parts will stay cloudy and windy, with light rain across Northern Ireland and the Western Isles.
Isolated showers on North Sea coasts, otherwise quickly turning cold and frosty under clear spells in central and eastern parts. Becoming windy in the west with sporadic outbreaks of rain.
Gales and heavy rain will spread to all areas though Saturday. Snow and freezing rain is likely across northern England and Scotland leading to blizzard conditions and ice in places.
Sunday to Tuesday
Drier and less cold on Sunday with showers in the west. Risk of ice into Monday, thereafter drier in the east, but wet in the north and west. Becoming windy.
Will it snow on Christmas Day?
Right now, it’s anyone’s guess.
The long-term forecast says the weather will be unsettled that week and temperatures will be a little milder than usual.
However, there is a slight chance of a spell of colder temperatures and showers.
Here’s the Met Office’s forecast for Wednesday 19 December to Friday 28 December:
"Cloud and rain should clear east early on Wednesday with sunshine and blustery showers following.
"The showers most frequent in the northwest and west where there is the risk of hail and thunder with some hill snow in the north.
"Some patchy fog may be slow to clear on Thursday with fewer showers and lighter winds. It is then likely to remain mostly unsettled through the rest of the period with spells of rain and strong winds.
"The heaviest rain will be in the west with eastern parts staying generally drier.
"With the unsettled weather temperatures are likely to be around or a little above average.
"However, there is a small chance of a colder and shower spell developing during Christmas week."
Surviving the cold weather
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