Rare ‘freezing rain’ phenomenon will turn roads to ‘ice rinks’

Rare ‘freezing rain’ phenomenon will turn roads to ‘ice rinks’
Weather forecasters are warning our roads will be at their “most treacherous” as showers of ‘freezing rain’ sweep the country.

Vast swathes of the country are already in the grip of the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ – with the RAC reporting its busiest day in a decade on Tuesday.

But conditions are set to intensify as Storm Emma sweeps across the South West from the continent, colliding with the Beast from the East to create the rare weather phenomenon of 'freezing rain'.

The Met Office has now said ‘Storm Emma’ will make driving extremely hazardous and is due to hit England on Thursday night and Friday morning, covering the South West in snow nad freezing rain.

READ MORE: Advice for safe driving on ice

Elsewhere a red 'severe weather' alert warning has been issued by the Met Office for part of Scotland this afternoon and into tomorrow morning - only the second red warning for snow the Met Office has ever issued.

What is freezing rain?

Freezing rain is a weather phenomenon which sees water droplets freeze into snow before passing through patches of warmer air and melting into rain.

The rain then passes through sub-zero temperatures nearer the ground and freezes when it comes into contact with a cold surface, like a road surface or a car windscreen, creating lethal sheets of ice.

Sara Thornton, director of digital weather service weathertrending, said of the rare meteorological event: “The Beast from the East will tighten its grip as the week goes on.

“Even if the snow doesn’t get you, gale-force winds and super-cooled freezing rain could turn parts of the UK into an ice rink by the weekend.

“Driving conditions will be positively dangerous, with widespread transport and communication disruption expected. The danger will be greatest in areas that see warmer air tussling with the big freeze.

“Here we’re likely to see super chilled water fall as rain – only to freeze instantly as it hits the ground.

“The result could be an invisible, lethal glaze on roads and pavements that could rank as one of the worst freezing rain events for many years.”

READ MORE: A complete guide to safe driving in the snow

RAC Road Safety Spokesman Pete Williams said its breakdown service endured the busiest day in a decade as temperatures plummeted on Tuesday.

The organisation is now advising drivers across the country not to travel unless it is necessary.

He said: “All around the UK, our patrols are working extremely hard around the clock to reach our members and get them moving again in what are some rapidly changing weather conditions.

“With a red weather warning now in place for parts of Scotland until tomorrow morning – some areas could receive more than a foot of snow, and some communities may even get cut off – the simple advice to drivers here is not to travel.”

Mr Williams added: “The next 24 to 48 hours are going to be critical as Storm Emma moves in from the south bringing low pressure and plenty of moisture. We also have the very strong risk of freezing rain – arguably the most treacherous of all conditions for motorists – as heavy rain falls on frozen ground, turning instantly to ice.”

MORE ADVICE: Reduce the chances of a breaking down in winter with these top tips

The RAC is urging those motorists who do get out on the roads to follow a series of simple safety checks before they do so.

Mr Williams explained: “Use the acronym ‘FORCES of winter’ to run through the DIY checks. ‘F’ is for fuel – ensure you have plenty for your planned journey. ‘O’ is for oil – one third of cars our patrols attend are running dangerously low on oil and this could cause catastrophic engine failure.

‘R’ is for rubber – check your tyre treads – ideally you need at least 3mm to maintain good grip and traction on snow and ice and ensure they are at the correct pressure. Also check your wiper blades aren’t perished and they do a good job of clearing your windscreen. ‘C’ is for coolant – top up if necessary – you don’t want your cart overheating when you are stuck in sub-zero temperatures.

“’E’ is for electrics – most importantly your lights – ensure they are all working and that they are clean and free from salt and muck. ‘S’ -finally check your screen wash is topped up and use a quality additive which is effective down to at least -15 or – 20 degrees Celsius.

“We are also advising drivers to pack an emergency winter driving kit - prepare for the worse and hopefully you will have a safe and smooth journey.”

Copyright Press Association 2018. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.