Cold air sweeping in from the Arctic is bringing frosty conditions to Britain with snow and sleet already falling.
The chilly snap will bring an end to the largely mild start to autumn, with people advised to dig out their warm winter clothes over the weekend as the Met Office issued ice and snow warnings in some areas.
Even in southern parts, where temperatures are forecast to be around 7C (45F), the wind chill factor means it will feel several degrees cooler, forecasters said – with travel conditions becoming ‘difficult and hazardous’.
A yellow warning for snow and ice is in place for northern Scotland from 8pm today until 11am tomorrow, while another alert for ice takes effect in Northern Ireland from 1am until 10am on Saturday.
Forecasters warned of patchy ice and slush affecting some upland routes as well as rail and road disruption – with slippery conditions possible as roads are left wet tonight and into tomorrow morning.
The Met Office warned of a ‘chance of frost or ice virtually anywhere in the country’. Snow may dust the tops of hills in the Pennines, Snowdonia in North Wales, the North York Moors, and across the Scottish Highlands.
Met Office meteorologist Aidan McGivern said: ‘Snow building up over the higher routes, some icy patches for the north of Scotland as well as Northern Ireland to watch out for first thing Saturday.
‘It will be a fairly chilly start, with temperatures widely close to freezing and that means you’ll perhaps have to scrape your car windscreen and you’ll see a frost in place first thing.’
Eastern parts are likely to see hail, showers and strong winds tomorrow, with the odd chance of a thunderstorm. Gritters are on standby across the country, with a number of councils posting pictures of their fleets online.
Met Office forecaster Bonnie Diamond added: ‘We have had a pretty mild October so far and a warm start to autumn in places so it will be a big change for everybody as we go through the weekend. Certainly it’s time to get the warm winter clothes out.’
And Met Office chief meteorologist Frank Saunders said: ‘Friday and Saturday night could bring frost to sheltered areas anywhere in the UK, although the strong breeze will keep temperatures just above freezing in some parts.
‘We’re probably used to the warmer weather that we’ve had through the early autumn, so the sudden marked contrast will be especially apparent.
‘And anywhere that we see showers falling, together with temperatures close to 0C (32F), people will need to take care when travelling.’
Stein Connelly from Transport Scotland said: ‘These conditions may impact driving conditions in the affected areas, particularly over higher routes. As always, we encourage motorists to plan their journeys ahead of time, follow any police travel advice and drive to the conditions.
‘Our operating companies have already started their winter service and will closely monitor the trunk road network, providing appropriate treatments where necessary’