Storm Deirdre batters Britain with gales and snow

Rare freezing rain adds to misery amid road closures and crashes

Ferociously bad weather brought by Storm Deirdre battered parts of the UK on Saturday with snow, gales and bursts of freezing rain.

Accidents and road closures were reported by police forces across England, while visitor attractions including the Eden Project in Cornwall were forced to close.

The Met Office issued seven amber and yellow warnings that covered almost the entire UK apart from London and the south-east, which saw heavy rain. And it confirmed that freezing rain – a rare weather phenomenon – had been reported at Leeds Bradford airport, with worsening conditions expected.

“We are going to see widespread freezing rain events, which is fairly unusual,” said the Met Office forecaster Mark Wilson, adding that the north of England and southern Scotland would be worst hit.

He added: “The concern is there will be a lot of people on the roads at this time of year, and black ice can produce very dangerous driving conditions, so our strong recommendation is to be mindful of the very difficult situation on the roads.”

According to the Met Office, freezing rain occurs when rain falls through sub-zero temperature air to become supercooled and freeze “almost instantly” when it hits a cold surface. Supercooled water droplets can exist in a liquid state below zero Centigrade and occur in clouds in winter time.

After being hit by heavy rain, the Eden Project said it had shut “due to floodwater on the site” but expected to be open again on Sunday. “We were in the Mediterranean Biome when we were told us they were shutting,” said Alistair Taylor, 48, from Basingstoke. “I was a little surprised but understand it for health and safety reasons.

A man photographs waves caused by storm Deirdre in Balbriggan, Co. Dublin, Ireland.
A man photographs waves caused by storm Deirdre in Balbriggan, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Derry City and Strabane district council in Northern Ireland said it had temporarily closed its Winterland market in Guildhall Square in Derry due to “exceptionally high winds and poor weather conditions”. The Police Service of Northern Ireland urged drivers to take care when out on the roads. “Strong winds and surface water are making driving conditions hazardous,” said a spokesman.

Rainfall in Co Down was particularly heavy, with some cars stranded by flooded roads near Ballynahinch.

In England, moorland police said they had seen numerous collisions and vehicles stuck on ice, while Cumbria’s traffic police were forced to close some roads because of the treacherous conditions. 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.

A spokesman for Leeds Bradford airport said the freezing rain had not delayed any flights.


Aamna Mohdin

The GuardianTramp

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