Storm Larisa is battering parts of the UK, with gales and blizzards causing significant disruption including trapping motorists for hours overnight on a motorway in the north of England.
The Met Office has issued amber warnings for northern England, the Midlands, north Wales and Northern Ireland, where “significant disruption” to transport and power supplies is expected.
Yellow warnings for snow cover much of the rest of the UK, with the exception of south-east England and western Scotland.
The Met Office meteorologist Jonathan Vautrey said the storm, which has been named by the French weather service, was bringing rain and snow to the UK.
“Storm Larisa is the same low pressure system that is bringing us the bands of rain,” he said. “But essentially, we’re on the northern side of the low pressure system, and it’s the southern side of that low pressure system that is going to be bringing particularly strong winds to parts of France.
“So that did originate out in the Atlantic and then it tracked its way eastward towards us, and the weather fronts that are swirling around that low pressure system have then been pushing into the cold air that has been in places across the UK and allowing that rain to start falling as snow across several areas.”
The worst of the weather is expected in north-west Wales and northern England, where gusts of “easily 50mph” are on a collision course with 30-40cm of snow.
Traffic was brought to a standstill on the M62 in the early hours of Friday due to heavy snow in the area. National Highways: North-West said that at one point congestion on the M62 eastbound between Rochdale and Saddleworth stretched to about 8 miles (13km).
People in the south of England are likely to experience the worst of the rain.
The weather is expected to clear by the end of Friday, before being replaced by another low pressure system, leading to a further yellow snow and ice warning for much of northern England and Scotland from 3pm on Saturday to 6am on Sunday.
National Highways issued a severe weather alert for snow covering the north-east, north-west and Midlands regions until 8am on Friday.
The Met Office amber snow alert for England lasts until noon on Friday and covers cities including Liverpool, Sheffield, Bradford and Leeds.
In Wales, an amber snow and ice warning is in place until 9am on Friday, stretching from the north coast to Radnorshire.