Amber alert for snow issued as Arctic blast tightens icy grip on Britain

Hundreds of schools in northern Scotland are again closed on Wednesday.

PA Reporters
Wednesday 17 January 2024 13:21 GMT
Further weather warnings have been issued as an Arctic blast hits Britain (Martin Rickett/PA)
Further weather warnings have been issued as an Arctic blast hits Britain (Martin Rickett/PA) (PA Wire)

An amber alert is among the widespread weather warnings for snow and ice issued across the UK, following its coldest night of the winter so far.

The mercury fell to minus 14C in Dalwhinnie in the Highlands on Tuesday night, according to provisional recordings by the Met Office, the lowest January temperature in Britain since 2019.

The Met Office has issued amber warnings for snow between 3pm on Wednesday and 6pm on Thursday in north-west Scotland and the Northern Isles, meaning road delays are likely and some vehicles could be stranded.

Yellow weather warnings of snow and ice have been updated, with much of Scotland, northern England, parts of Wales and Northern Ireland covered on Wednesday, and southern and central Scotland affected by an ice warning.

Hundreds of schools are again shut in Scotland on Wednesday amid the wintry weather and motorists are advised to drive with care due to “tricky” conditions.

All council schools and nurseries in Shetland and Orkney are shut, while 280 are closed in the Highlands and about 90 in Aberdeenshire, while others delayed opening times.

The Met Office amber warning forecasts some areas could see an extra 15cm-20cm of snow, meaning power cuts are likely and more remote communities are at risk of being cut off.

Yellow weather warnings of snow and ice have been updated, with much of Scotland, northern England, parts of Wales and Northern Ireland covered on Wednesday, and southern and central Scotland affected by an ice warning.

On Thursday parts of western and northern Scotland, north-east and eastern England, Wales and Northern Ireland are affected by a snow and ice warning.

Police advised people to drive to the conditions, be prepared for delays and allow extra time for their journey if they absolutely have to travel.

Chief Superintendent Hilary Sloan, Police Scotland’s head of road policing, said: “Our advice is to plan ahead and consider if your journey is really necessary during this latest spell of severe weather or if it can be delayed until conditions improve.”

Scotland’s transport minister, Fiona Hyslop, said winter resilience plans have been in full effect and urged people to plan ahead if travelling.

She said: “Police Scotland is warning of a high risk of disruption for the parts of the country covered by the amber warning, but yellow warnings can also be impactful and cause delays.”

Forecasters had predicted some snow-covered parts of Scotland could reach minus 15C overnight into Wednesday, which would have been the coldest January night for 14 years, when minus 22.3C was recorded in 2010.

While temperatures did not drop as low as that, Tuesday night did mark the coldest night this winter so far, beating the minus 12.5C daily minimum temperature recorded at Altnaharra in the Highlands on December 3.

Freezing temperatures and snow will continue for much of Britain this week due to a blast of Arctic air, before “potentially disruptive” stormy weather lands over the weekend.

A “cold plunge of Arctic air” has moved south across the whole country over the past few days, making it 5C to 6C lower than usual for this time of year, the Met Office said.

The forecaster has said more than 40cm of snow may fall on high ground in north-west Scotland by the end of Friday.

Meanwhile, lower ground in north-west Scotland could see between 5cm and 10cm of snow by the end of the working week.

Met Office chief meteorologist Jason Kelly said: “With deep snow already lying on the ground for many in Scotland, we’re going to see a significant topping up of totals over the next couple of days, especially for those in the north of Scotland.

“Within the amber warning area, an additional 15cm-20cm of snow is possible in a few locations.

“Strengthening north-westerly winds will also cause some lying snow to drift, potentially bringing some additional hazards, such as temporary blizzard conditions.”

The Met Office said the low temperatures are also due to how long the cold snap has lasted.

The weather is forecast to turn stormy on Sunday.

The weekend will be milder, but westerly weather will bring wind and rain – and the potential for more weather warnings as the snow melts.

The UK Government has confirmed that thousands of households in England and Wales are eligible for cold weather payments.

They are made to vulnerable people, including pensioners, to help them pay for heating when the temperature dips below freezing.

The payments go to those living in an area where the average temperature is recorded as, or forecast to be, 0C or below over seven consecutive days.

Payments will be made to homes across Cumbria, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Norfolk, Staffordshire and Powys in Wales.

The UK Health Security Agency has issued a cold-health alert, which warns of possible impacts for the health and social care sector.

National Rail warned the wintry weather could affect train journeys all week, with services between Edinburgh/Glasgow Queen Street and Inverness running to an altered schedule on Wednesday.

ScotRail said a normal service is otherwise expected to run on Wednesday.

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