Met Office extends rare amber health warning for England as snow hits

Met Office in-depth look at freezing weather and 'when it will end'

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A health alert has been activated and extended across all of England in anticipation of more icy conditions, severe cold weather and heavy snow. The Met Office and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) have now stretched an amber cold weather alert into this weekend as wintry showers are expected to hit some coastal areas. The alert itself currently expires at noon on Sunday, but this may be subject to change. It says: “This weather could increase the health risks to vulnerable patients and disrupt the delivery of services. Please refer to the national Cold Weather Plan and your Trust’s emergency plan for appropriate preventive action.”

In its outlook for the next few days, it adds: “Widely cold or very cold at first with severe overnight frosts in places (especially over snow cover). A rapid transition to milder conditions is expected through Sunday.

“Low single figure maxima early in the period will likely be replaced by low-double digits (at least in the south) on Sunday. Wintry showers may affect some coasts on Wednesday and Thursday with a more organised band of snow expected in the north on Friday.

“During the transition to milder air on Sunday a band of snow is expected across England, perhaps heavy at times over northern hills, but readily turning to rain as the milder air feeds in from the southwest. There remains a degree of uncertainty regarding the extent of this snow.

“It should be noted that this may be a relatively short milder interlude with cold weather expected to return from the north next week.” Forecasts have warned that Monday will see a brief respite from the bone-chilling cold, but this will be shortlived for many as northerly weather front makes a quick comeback in the run-up to Christmas.

The alert is in place to ensure the wellbeing of the vulnerable population who may become poorly in these freezing cold conditions. Its advice says: “Look out for friends and family who may be vulnerable to the cold, and ensure they have access to warm food and drinks and are managing to heat their homes adequately.

“Try to maintain indoor temperatures to at least 18C, particularly if you are not mobile, have a long-term illness or are 65 or over.” Come Sunday evening, though, the cold may thaw out for some people – particularly those living in the south east. 

A milder frontal system is set to creep in from the Atlantic, seeing the mercury somewhat recover on Monday. Top temperatures are set to be up to 9C in the south, 6C in the north and 4C in parts of central Scotland. 

But people have been told not to get used to it, as by Tuesday a northerly polar blast will develop and will begin to swarm Scotland at first and parts of northern England in the coming days. 

The Met Office has shared more detail over what can be expected this weekend and into next week, with more places now set for rain and a return of some unsettled weather which was experienced in November. 

From next Monday to December 28 it says: “Monday is likely to be wet to start for many, with outbreaks of rain, heavy in places, and perhaps still some snow over northern Scottish mountains. Brighter weather is expected to follow, although with showers, wintry at times, spreading from the northwest in the afternoon.

“Showers or longer spells of wet weather are expected to continue in the following days, perhaps with some snow at times, mainly to higher ground. For the rest of the period, confidence is low, however conditions may continue to be changeable, with the occasional wetter periods bringing rain or showers.

“Northern parts are likely to be most unsettled, where a risk of snow persists. Generally rather windy, although some lighter winds possible. Temperatures close to normal in the south, and rather cold in the north.”

Dr Agostinho Sousa, consultant in public health medicine at UKHSA, shared some advice for those who are struggling with the current sub-zero temperatures. He said: “Cold weather can have serious consequences for health, and older people and those with heart or lung conditions can be particularly at risk.

“If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you should heat your home to a temperature that is comfortable for you. In rooms you mostly use such as the living room or bedroom, try to heat them to at least 18C if you can. Keep your bedroom windows closed at night. Wearing several layers of clothing will keep you warmer than one thicker layer.”

Douglas Cairns, Traffic Scotland operator manager, added more about a contingency plan in place to cope with the influx of snow and busier roads in the run-up to Christmas. He said: “We are urging travellers to plan ahead and check before they leave, and also to ensure their vehicles are winter ready.

“Planning ahead has never been more important. Here, our winter treatment plans are already well underway across the trunk road network, salt barns are well stocked and a record 240 gritters are ready for deployment from over 40 depots across Scotland.

“We expect the transport network to be busier in the run up to the Christmas weekend as people look to spend time with friends and family, so it’s important that travellers continue to play their part.”

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