Scotland and Northern Ireland are set for “significant accumulations” of snow as the disruption promised by Storm Caroline begins.
While the worst of the wind and snow are expected in northern parts of the UK, the Met Office is warning that “scattered sleet and snow showers can be expected almost anywhere in the UK” tonight.
Snow showers could continue until Monday – with a spell of “heavy snow” possible over some central parts of the UK during Sunday.
Up to 20cm of snow was forecast on Friday and Saturday in parts of Northern Ireland, northern Scotland and North Wales, and even parts of the northwest Midlands.
While some may be excited by the prospect of pre-Christmas snow, Met Office meteorologist John West has warned that Caroline’s winds have the potential to be “devastating”.
Winds of between 60 and 70mph were anticipated in northern Scotland as the storm barrelled in on Thursday morning.
In exposed areas, winds could reach 90mph.
The Met Office has warned there could be a “danger to life” because of flying debris and has issued an amber “be prepared” warning for northern Scotland.
Sky News weather presenter Kirsty McCabe said: “The strongest winds are now over the northeast of mainland Scotland and the Northern Isles. Snow showers will remain frequent and heavy through the evening.
“Storm Caroline is now moving northeastwards with the very strong winds now confined to the far northeast of mainland Scotland and the Northern Isles.
“Gusts of 70 mph are still possible in these areas with 80-90 mph gusts still possible in the Shetland Isles for the next few hours.”
A less severe yellow warning is in place for much of Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern, central and southwestern England.
All schools and nurseries in Lewes, Harris and Uist in the Western Isles were closed on Thursday as a precaution and a North Sea platform about 240 miles from Aberdeen has been shut, with all 159 staff taken off.
Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services between Tarbet and Lochranza, Oban and Tiree via Coll, and Ullapool and Stornoway have been cancelled for the rest of the day, with other services also facing disruption.
The Forth Road Bridge connecting Edinburgh with Fife and Tay Road Bridge connecting Fife and Dundee are closed to double-decker buses, with the Skye and Kessock bridges shut to high-sided vehicles.
Rail services in Scotland have also been counting the cost of the storm, with a trampoline blown onto the track at Neilston causing cancellations between the village station and Glasgow Central.
The first service to run as scheduled on Thursday was not until 7.55am.
Meanwhile, homes in Broadford, Skye, Lybster and Wick are suffering from power cuts, with Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks warning that some could be without electricity until Thursday evening.
Scotland’s transport minister, Humza Yousaf, said: “With stormy weather expected across the north of Scotland we would urge people to check with their operators before they travel, especially if they are planning a ferry journey.
“There may also be bridge restrictions, particularly for high-sided vehicles, and we would urge road users to check the latest information on wind thresholds on the Traffic Scotland website to see where this is likely.”
Gales should significantly lessen as the storm heads further south, but Liverpool could still face winds of up to 46mph and Londoners can look forward to 35mph gusts, the Met Office has said.
(c) Sky News 2017: UK set for ‘significant’ snow as Storm Caroline hits