Parts of the UK could be blanketed with up to 30cm (11.8 inches) of snow this week, leaving drivers stranded, public transport disrupted and rural communities cut off for “several days”, forecasters have warned.
Prolonged snowfall, heavy rain or icy conditions are expected to hit various areas between Wednesday and Monday, bringing potential flooding, delays to train and bus services and affecting power supplies.
The Met Office has issued several weather warnings for the next few days, including a 66-hour-long yellow warning for snow over much of Scotland from 6pm on Thursday to midday on Sunday.
The series of warnings comes after the UK endured its coldest January in 10 years.
An amber warning, the Met Office’s second highest alert level, warns of persistent snow hitting central and northern Scotland from midnight on Friday to 6pm on Saturday.
Met Office spokesman Oli Claydon said conditions could see up to 30cm (11.8 inches) building up during that period in areas above an elevation of about 150 metres.
“So quite widespread and quite significant snow accumulations in that region of Scotland,” he said.
Forecasters said the wintry conditions could lead to long delays and cancellations on bus, rail and air links, while roads may become blocked by deep snow, leaving drivers stranded.
Some communities “might be cut off for several days” and “long interruptions” to power supplies could occur, the Met Office warned.
Mr Claydon said yellow warnings were in place for “rain hazards” over Northern Ireland and parts of North East England on Wednesday and into Thursday.
Some flooding of homes and businesses is possible alongside travel disruption.
Earlier rainfall in Northern Ireland had left ground saturated, Mr Claydon highlighted, adding that a further 20 to 40mm could fall quite widely, potentially up to 50mm in lower levels, and even up to 80mm in areas above 300 metres.
Some 20 to 40mm could also fall in the North East of England, with 60 to 80mm possibly dropping on east-facing slopes.
On Wednesday morning there were 45 flood warnings – which advise immediate action – in place across England from the Environment Agency, as well as more than 150 flood alerts.
Road closures as a result of flooding were reported by police forces in Northumbria and County Durham.
Amanda Bloor, accountable officer for North Yorkshire clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), told a press briefing on Wednesday that snow had caused “operational issues” for the coronavirus vaccine rollout, with early morning appointments postponed in Harrogate and Ripon on Tuesday.
But she said the delivery of vaccines in the region was “on target”.
Stuart Carlton, North Yorkshire County Council’s corporate director for children and young people’s services, said many schools had reopened on Wednesday after being closed due to the weather.
Northumberland County Council has warned some residents it was unable to collect refuse until Friday afternoon due to wintry road conditions.
Heavy rain flooding the railway between Newcastle and Morpeth meant some lines were blocked, according to travel updates on the National Rail Enquiries website.
Further south, South Western Railway said its trains were unable to run on the line towards Southampton due to flooding at New Milton, Hampshire.
Mr Claydon warned of the risks posed by a “continual build up of snow” in Scotland, highlighting an initial yellow warning in place for parts of the country for all of Wednesday and up to 6pm Thursday.
This period could see 10 to 20cm, and as much as 40cm across parts of the Grampian Mountains.
Mr Claydon said the wintry conditions were being driven by a “cold pool of air” over Scotland, with the area of low pressure bringing the snow risk moving slowly southwards by the end of the weekend.
“That then brings the wintery hazards to much wider parts of the UK,” he said.
A large yellow warning for snow and ice currently stretches along the east and parts of central England, saying cold conditions could bring disruption from 3pm on Sunday until the end of Monday.