After the snow comes freezing rain - UK hit by rare winter phenomenon

Britain has hit by freezing rain (Amer Ghazzal/REX/Shutterstock)
Britain has hit by freezing rain (Amer Ghazzal/REX/Shutterstock)

As if the weather has not been bad enough over the past few days , Britain has also been struck by freezing rain.

The rare weather phenomenon – which sees rain freeze almost instantly when it strikes a cold surface – struck parts of the country, turning streets and roads into potential ice rinks.

It also creates ice that is hard to see, making it even more potentially dangerous.

It came as Britain struggled with relatively large snowfalls and freezing temperatures, affecting large parts of the country.

So, what exactly is freezing rain?

It is s formed from ‘supercooled’ droplets that hit the ground in liquid form. When the droplets hit surfaces that are close to or below freezing, they freeze on impact.

It is caused when snow, ice, sleet or hail passes through a layer of air that is warmer than 0C and turns into liquid droplets.

Freezing rain is rare in Britain.

Where has freezing rain been spotted?

It has hit the south coast and south west UK in recent days, with one of the place affected being the resort town of Swanage, Dorset, where some people tweeted to show what had happened, including local photographer, Andy Lyons.


Is it really any different from snow?

It is; snow forms when tiny ice crystals in clouds stick to each other and form flakes, which then fall to the ground when heavy enough.

Freezing rain may start off as snow but at some point it passes through different temperatures to become a super-cooled liquid.

The rare phenomenon comes as temperatures are some of the lowest on record in recent years (PA()
The rare phenomenon comes as temperatures are some of the lowest on record in recent years (PA()

Does it look any different to snow?

Photos shared on Twitter show frozen water droplets hanging off branches and flower petals – seemingly in suspended animation. On flat surfaces, the droplets can form a sheet of ice.

And it didn’t just affect motorists.

People took to social media to show the impact of the freezing rain, and a hashtag #freezingrain was even trending at some points.

One of those who pointed out what had happened was dog owner Hayley B, who posted a picture on Twitter after taking the pet for a walk.


Why is it dangerous?

Freezing ice forms ice that is clear and can be slippery and hard to see.

It has even been described as ‘one of the greatest challenges any driver could face’, by RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis.

Motorists should slow down gently, use lower revs by getting into a higher gear and avoid braking on bends.

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