Britons are bracing for travel chaos as Storm Caroline and an Arctic freeze are set to batter the country with 80mph gales, heavy rain and blizzards over three days.
Up to 20cm of snow could fall over higher ground as temperatures plummet, while 2-5cm is possible through the Midlands and into parts of Devon and Cornwall in the south.
The weather will begin to worsen Wednesday as winds strengthen and conditions turn wet and blustery, especially across the north.
Forecasters expect the third named storm of the season to then bring gusts of up to 80mph in northern Scotland as fierce gales hit on Thursday.
Snow, ice and sleet are likely across large parts of the UK – from south-west England up through Scotland – as a polar blast moves in from Russia on Friday and lingers through Saturday after Caroline passes.
Yellow “be aware” weather warnings will be in place Thursday through Saturday as the brutal conditions make travel treacherous and threaten to cut power to thousands of homes and businesses.
Satellite images released by Nasa show the giant storm churning towards the UK.
Met Office meteorologist Marco Petagna said: “Wednesday will see the last of the mild days, with temperatures in double figures, between 10 and 12 degrees.
“Overnight, the main feature will be the increase in wind as Caroline starts to come in towards the end of the night.
“At the moment we have a yellow weather warning in place, but it could be upgraded to amber.”
Road, rail, air and ferry services may be affected, while a loss of power in some areas is also possible.
Coastal routes, seafronts and coastal communities are likely to be affected by spray or large waves.
As the polar wind plunges down the country on Friday, temperatures in northern Britain will resemble a teeth-chattering -16C.
The wind chill factor will even cause temperatures in the south and south-east of England to feel like -5C.
But the worst of the conditions will be felt on higher ground in northern England and Scotland, according to The Weather Channel.
The warning for snow and ice states: “Snow showers are expected to become increasingly frequent over northern Scotland late on Thursday and are expected across many other parts of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and western England on Friday.
“Two to five cm of snow is likely for some, with 10-20 cm possible over high ground, mainly Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.
“Icy surfaces are also likely to be an additional hazard, especially overnight. Strong northwest winds may cause drifting of the snow in places with blizzard conditions possible at times across northern Scotland.
“The heaviest and most frequent of the snow showers will progressively.”
Some places will feel around 9C colder compared to Thursday. And it could be several days before temperatures start to inch upwards as the country is held in an icy grip, forecasters say.
The biting cold snap is likely to continue into next week with more sleet and snow showers predicted and temperatures struggling to climb above freezing.
Several fronts will sweep in from the Atlantic during next week with winds picking up and the risk of more frequent outbreaks of rain or sleet.
Showers could affect all regions and at times more persistent periods of rain, sleet and snow are possible. There should be some brighter spells in the run-up to the festive season and these will be accompanied by sharp overnight frosts.
A return to milder temperatures is possible nearer to Christmas, but there is still some uncertainty in the long-range forecast.
Forecaster Eleanor Bell, principal meteorologist at The Weather Channel, said colder air would start to affect the UK during Thursday when Storm Caroline clears the country and moves across the North Sea.
She said: “Storm Caroline will continue to shift eastwards through Thursday becoming situated to the west of Norway by the evening,
“This will develop a cold northerly flow and as a result will drag cold Arctic air in across Britain late Thursday overnight into Friday resulting in a sharp drop in temperatures.
“It will feel much colder in the wind. Widespread frosts are also expected.”
Meanwhile, dozens of workers are being removed from a North Sea platform due to safety fears over weather conditions caused by Storm Caroline.
CNR International said a total of 69 of the 159 staff on Ninian South, about 240 miles from Aberdeen, would be leaving the structure as a precaution.
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