A brutal storm ploughing in from the Atlantic may yet earn the seventh name of the season–Gladys–and will drag a plume of Arctic air across Britain on its tail.
Government forecasters have issued warnings in parts of the UK for up to a foot of snow while eruptions of thunder and lightning during blizzards threaten loss of power supplies, mobile phone outages, and travel chaos.
The Met Office has an unusual ‘snow and lightning’ warning in force through tonight and much of tomorrow.
A spokesman said: “Temperatures across Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to drop sharply following a squally band of rain on Wednesday, with frequent heavy and blustery snow showers arriving from the Atlantic.
“There is a small chance that some of the showers could be accompanied by frequent lightning, which could impact power supplies, including some places outside of the warning area.”
Separate warnings are in force for strong winds down the eastern flank of the UK while heavy wintry downpours could dump up to a foot of snow over high ground.
The biggest deluge is forecast through the early hours of Thursday when gusts of up to 70mph threaten to whip up crippling blizzards.
While government forecasters are yet to name a seventh storm, forecasters say the next low-pressure system to hit Britain could be strong enough to breach the threshold.
Jim Dale, meteorologist for British Weather Services, said: “It is up to the Met Office to name these storms, but Gladys could well be waiting in the wings before the end of the week.
“During the second half of the week there will be the potential for another bout of strong winds as a low comes in from the Atlantic.
“We are also looking at a double-edged sword in terms of the winds being accompanied by snow.
“This could fall across Scotland and northern England, often driven by strong winds.”
James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather, said swathes of Britain could see wintry downpours before the weekend.
He warned Britain could be in the firing line for widespread show to unleash the most potent blast of winter so far.
He said: “Many parts of the north will be at risk of seeing significant and accumulating snow, and there is the potential for some several feet accumulations in parts of the far north and in many rural locations.
“There will be an increasing risk for something wintry hitting southern regions, and these may reach to lower levels on Thursday.
“On these current projections, we look set for the snowiest blast of this winter to hit us within the next day or so.”
Weather models reveal a snow deluge on Thursday as temperatures plummet to -16C in bitter winds
Ground temperatures could hit -12C in parts of Scotland with lows more widely between freezing and single figures.
Netweather forecaster Jo Farrow said: “The cold front will still be over southeastern England and East Anglia around dawn on Thursday.
“It could contain icy rain, even wet snow over the Downs but it edges away eastwards.
“Behind in the proper cold air there will be heavy snow showers over northern England, again from the west and a mixture of rain, with sleet and snow showers for Wales and southwest England.”
It rounds off a week of weather hell which kicked off with Storm Dudley and killer storm Eunice before last weekend.
Foul weather has been driven by the jet stream which, with an unusually ferocious 200mph ‘jet streak’ core, has steered relentless storms in from the Atlantic.
The jet stream has shifted position, the result being through the coming days to allow colder air in from the Arctic.
John Hammond, meteorologist for weathertrending, said: “The next low-pressure system brings strong winds and heavy rain on Wednesday night and Thursday and that could be disruptive.
“Thursday looks, for a time, not very nice at all.
“We will see blustery winds, wintry showers and some snow down to low levels.”