Storm Deirdre to blast UK with ice, blizzard, damaging winds into Sunday

By Kristina Pydynowski, AccuWeather senior meteorologist
December 15, 2018, 11:11:27 PM EST

Storm Deirdre is taking aim at the United Kingdom, threatening to cause widespread travel hazards and disruptions this weekend.

The storm also has the potential to cause wind damage, power cuts, local flash flooding and ruined holiday plans.

Rain has spread across much of the U.K. through the day on Saturday.

Enough cold air was in place for the rain to start as snow and/or freezing rain in Wales (away from the coast) and much of England and Scotland.

uk storm 12/15

"Freezing rain is rare in the U.K., but cold air trapped in the deepest valleys can lead to a more prolonged period of ice from Wales and the Midlands into northern England," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys.

Leeds and Bradford are among the communities that can face enough ice to heighten the risk of tree damage and power cuts, especially when strong winds are kicked up.

Even a thin layer of freezing rain coating roads and sidewalks can make travel extremely treacherous for a time in areas such as Oxford, Nottingham, Manchester and Darlington. Anyone venturing out amid the icy conditions is at risk of falling or being in a vehicle accident.

The icy weather is expected to transition to rain in most communities across Wales and England in the late afternoon or evening, but wintry conditions may linger longer farther north.

"Travel will deteriorate in the Scottish Highlands and become difficult, if not impossible, from Saturday night and into Sunday morning," according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys. "There can be up to 30 cm (a foot) of snow clogging roads and blizzard conditions creating dangerous whiteouts."

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Anyone who must travel during the height of the storm should have a winter survival kit in their vehicle as the risk for becoming stranded will be high. Officials may be forced to close roads through the hills.

Travel hazards due to the snow may not be limited to the higher terrain.

"Whilst the snow may fall too briefly for snow to settling in Edinburgh, snow may persist long enough in Glasgow for a total of 5-10 cm (2-4 inches)," according to Roys.

uk wind 12/15

"There can be times when the snow lightens up for rain to mix in, but the snow may fall hard enough to cause slippery travel," he added.

The risks for slippery travel and ice are expected to remain north of London. The storm instead will mainly deliver another bout of rain and gusty winds to the city.

Increasing winds on Saturday afternoon and evening will make holding onto brollies in London difficult. Winds of 40 to 50 mph (65-80 km/h) can lead to travel delays and sporadic power cuts on Saturday evening.

Even stronger winds can create more problems elsewhere in the U.K.

"As the storm strengthens, winds will ramp up and there can be gusts between 60 and 70 mph (95 and 115 km/h) near the coast from Wales and western England through Saturday evening," according to Roys. "There can be localized gusts in excess of 80 mph (130 km/h) along the coast of Wales."

Edinburgh may escape the settling snow anticipated in Glasgow but not the wind gusts of around 50 mph (80 km/h) that can blow through both cities.

Residents from South West England to northern England and southern Scotland should prepare for potential power cuts and travel disruptions. Downed trees can block roads and cause additional damage to vehicles and structures.

Be sure that outdoor holiday decorations or stands at Christmas markets are secured. Loose items can get tossed and damaged.

The rain that will accompany the howling winds may be heavy enough to trigger localized flash flooding in urban and poor drainage areas across the western U.K. This includes Belfast.

Download the free AccuWeather app to find out how the storm will affect your community.

A new round of showers may dampen southwestern England and Wales on Sunday, but overall the weekend will end on a calmer note across the U.K. as Saturday's storm leaves Scotland.

Sunday will not mark another prolonged stretch of quieter weather for the U.K. Another bout of rain and strong winds is anticipated to sweep across the British Isles around Tuesday of next week. Any snow with this disturbance would be confined to the highest elevations.

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