Heavy snow and icy conditions are forecast to hit parts of the UK, as strong easterly winds from Ukraine and the Black Sea area spill across the country.
The Met Office has issued amber weather warnings for snow in parts of London, the east and southeast of England today, stretching from Norwich down to Canterbury, and warned that hazardous conditions could last well into next week.
Yellow warnings for snow and ice, covering the entire length of the UK, are also in place until midday on Wednesday.
Forecasters have warned of “significant disruptive snowfall” and gale force winds in the southeast of England, with up to 30cm of snow possible in the Downs of Kent and the North Downs.
Glasgow City Council sent its gritters out on Saturday night to outlying priority routes and areas around vaccine centres in light of the “chilly” time ahead.
Storm #Darcy has been named by the Dutch Met Service, KNMI, and is set to bring strong winds and heavy snow to southeast England late on Saturday and on Sunday, this easing through Monday
⚠️⚠️Met Office warnings are already in force⚠️⚠️
— Met Office (@metoffice) February 5, 2021
It comes as many parts of Scotland and northeast England could see 2cm to 5cm of snow, with 10cm to 15cm possible in regions above 200m.
Heavy disruptive snow is expected in southeast England along with 40-50mph wind gusts that could cause snowdrifts from today through to Monday morning, according to the Met Office.
Meteorologist Sarah Kent said: “There will be significant disruptive snowfall across the South East.
“Within this area, there is a small chance particularly over the Downs of Kent and the North Downs that you could see 25-30cm of snow.
“It is a small chance but the threat is there, up to a foot of snow potentially combined with extremely strong easterly winds. Even inland in that area, gusting could be 45mph and higher than that on the coasts.
“This could lead to significant drifting of any lying snow and obviously blizzards for the snow coming past you for anyone who is attempting to travel.
“Sadly there will be people who have to make journeys for the emergency services and there are still lorries that have to go to the ports. It is going to be really disruptive.
“With that sort of snowfall, you would expect some roads to be closed or blocked by the drifting snow, and long delays or some cancellations of public transport.”
She added: “We are only looking at significant snowfall tomorrow (Sunday) across the southeast of England, so while we have these cold easterly winds it is not as widespread as the Beast from the East in 2018.
“The easterly winds originate from Ukraine and the Black Sea – eastern Europe – the air will be cold but it will not be as bitingly cold as it was back in 2018.”
The Met Office said the Dutch have named the low-pressure system that will bring strong winds and widespread snow to the UK as Storm Darcy.
Places affected by the amber warning and expected to be hit by Darcy include Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent.
Roads may become blocked by deep snow, with the possibility of stranded vehicles and passengers.
Daytime temperatures will stay in low single figures for much of the country, with some places staying below freezing and the bitter winds making it feel even colder.
The RAC has warned it is bracing itself for a sharp increase in breakdowns in the coming days, and said that people should think “extremely carefully” before setting out on journeys.
People are only meant to leave their home for a very limited number of reasons anyway, due to lockdown rules.
Public Health England (PHE) has issued a cold weather alert for the whole of England from Saturday through to Wednesday.
Dr Owen Landeg, of PHE, said: “Cold weather isn’t just uncomfortable, it can have a serious impact on health.
“For older people and those with heart and lung problems, it can increase the risks of heart attacks, strokes and chest infections.
“So it’s really crucial at this time, especially ahead of a potentially very cold snap, to remember to check on frail or older neighbours or relatives, especially those living alone or who have serious illnesses.”