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Storm Isha to tear into UK with ‘danger to life’ winds as big freeze thaws

Storm Isha is set to barrel into the UK this weekend with 80mph winds that forecasters say pose a risk to life and may cause power cuts.

After a cold snap of Arctic air that saw parts of Britain blanketed in heavy snow, the Met Office has warned of a weekend washout with heavy rain and floods expected.

The forecaster, which named Storm Isha on Friday, has issued amber warnings for wind as fast as 80mph for northern and western England, Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland from Sunday evening until Monday morning.

Drivers were stranded as snow forced roads in Scotland to close (Getty Images)
Drivers were stranded as snow forced roads in Scotland to close (Getty Images)

Yellow warnings for wind and rain on Sunday, covering much of the rest of the UK, mean flooding is likely, the forecasters said. Large waves and debris being blown inland would create a risk to life in coastal areas, they added.

As icy conditions gripped the UK this week, much of the country had its coldest night of winter so far on Wednesday.

Northern Scotland had frequent snow showers on Thursday, and a number of drivers were stranded in Caithness when heavy snow forced the closure of the A9, police said.

All schools were closed in Orkney and Shetland, many of them having been shut all week.

Many parts of the country had flurries of snow and temporary coverings of white.  In Cambridgeshire, a lake was frozen enough for skating.

Yellow and amber warnings are in place across the UK for rain and wind on Sunday (The Met Office)
Yellow and amber warnings are in place across the UK for rain and wind on Sunday (The Met Office)
The Bridgewater Canal in Warrington froze over on Friday (PA)
The Bridgewater Canal in Warrington froze over on Friday (PA)

But this weekend the big freeze starts to thaw, bringing the wind, rain and temperatures rising rapidly – with possible highs of 12C on Sunday.

The heaviest downpours are expected on Sunday, when 30-50mm could fall in many places and the potential for peaks of 80-100mm over hills.

The rain could lead to flooding and transport disruption in Scotland, Wales and northwest England.

Drivers in Scotland and the north of England have been warned to avoid unnecessary travel on Sunday.

A yellow warning for wind is in place for the whole of Scotland for 24 hours from midday on Sunday, and yellow warnings for rain have been issued for central Scotland up to Inverness and for southern Scotland for Sunday into Monday.

The amber wind warnings also mean roads and bridges are likely to be shut, and rail and bus services, as well as flights and ferries, could face delays and cancellations.

Heavy snow in Lairg, Scotland, on Thursday (Getty Images)
Heavy snow in Lairg, Scotland, on Thursday (Getty Images)

Snow and ice are expected across central and northern Scotland, and a new yellow warning for rain in central Scotland has been issued for Saturday between 5pm and midnight.

The forecaster says there could be damage to buildings and flying debris, as southwesterly winds of up to 80mph could hit exposed coasts and there could be gusts of up to 60mph inland.

Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill forecast that weekend temperatures would be much higher than recently, saying: “Quite widely we could see places reaching highs of 12C-13C but we need to factor in the strong winds, the rain, the cloud, and so it is not going to feel quite so warm as this might suggest.”

He added: “Temperatures will be on the mild side, lifting as we go through this weekend and staying mild through much of next week. There may be some chillier spells but I think that any frost is likely to be isolated if we see any at all.

It’s feared places could be flooded as snow melts and rains move in (EPA)
It’s feared places could be flooded as snow melts and rains move in (EPA)

“There could be some overnight fog, particularly where we see drier calmer weather towards the southeast.”

The Environment Agency had issued 12 flood warnings, where flooding was expected, and 59 flood alerts where flooding was possible, as of Friday morning.

An amber cold health alert, issued by the UK Health Security Agency, which means extra demand on the health and social care sector, is in place until Saturday noon.

Six games in the English Football League this weekend have fallen victim to freezing conditions gripping the UK.

Storm Isha is the ninth named storm to hit the UK since the season began in September.

Storms are named – beginning with consecutive letters of the alphabet – when they pose a risk.

The record number of named storms in one year was 11, when the Met Office began the practice in 2015-16. Another three more named storms between now and August would make 12 and mark a new record.