Freezing rain brings treacherous conditions to UK roads
The Met Office has issued several weather warnings covering almost the whole country.
Freezing rain and plunging temperatures caused treacherous traffic conditions as Storm Deirdre hit the British Isles on what should have been a major pre-Christmas shopping day.
Forecasters have warned that freezing rain can pose risks to drivers and pedestrians as slippery black ice surfaces can form very quickly.
The Met Office confirmed that the rare weather phenomenon had been reported at Leeds Bradford Airport on Saturday, with worsening conditions expected.
Saturday footfall across UK high streets was down by 9.1% by 3pm, with bad weather among the factors blamed for the disappointing turnout on what is usually expected to be one of the busiest shopping weekends before Christmas, retail intelligence firm Springboard reported.
A spokesman for Leeds Bradford Airport said the weekend’s weather had not delayed any flights.
Freezing rain has also been falling in parts of southern Scotland and the North East, the Met Office said.
Collisions and road closures have been reported by police forces across England after heavy snow, ice, strong winds and rain were forecast across Saturday and Sunday.
Three amber and four yellow weather warnings have been issued covering almost the entirety of the country.
Only London and the South East are not facing an alert, but are still due to receive some heavy rain.
A major tourist destination in Cornwall was forced to close after being flooded.
The Eden Project told visitors it would be shut until 5pm on Saturday “due to flood water on the site”.
Visitors with booked tickets have been offered refunds or exchanges.
Collisions have closed some of the main routes across The Pennines as driving conditions worsened on Saturday.
The A628 Woodhead Pass – the main route from South Yorkshire to Greater Manchester – was shut following a serious accident.
The A57 Snake Pass, a few miles further south, remained open but there were reports of difficult driving conditions with black ice causing problems at various points on the route.
Further north, the A66 was also closed, between Co Durham and Cumbria.
Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill told the Press Association it had received reports of road closures and accidents from police forces in Staffordshire and Cumbria.
He said wind speeds of more than 60mph had been recorded in Tiree in Scotland, Aberporth in Wales and Lerwick in the Shetland Islands.
Mr Burkill said he was aware of snow falling in parts of central Scotland but no official observations were available.
He warned that more freezing rain could fall on Saturday and overnight into Sunday: “You can have nothing and just a few drops of rain and very quickly you’ve got icy stretches.
“The fact that we’ve already had road closures and accidents as a result of the ice suggests there will be further issues as we go through the rest of today.”
Mr Burkill added: “We’ve not really had the worst of it just yet and we’ve already seen the impact.”
He said the rain, sleet, snow and freezing rain should “gradually clear” north-eastwards over night.
Clear skies will follow, but conditions will turn even colder so the ice risk would remain “hazardous”.
Sunday is expected to be a “dryer, brighter day” for most people, Mr Burkill added.