Northern Ireland blanketed with snow in 'real taste of winter'
Snow and strong winds are causing travel disruption and school closures as wintry conditions continue to batter parts of the UK.
Heavy snow blanketed Northern Ireland mid-morning, with Coleraine and Ballymena among the towns worst hit.
Frequent snow showers and strong winds were also expected across Scotland, Wales and the North of England on Thursday, with the possibility of sleet or snow for a short time in the South.
The Met Office has issued yellow “be aware” warnings of wind and snow for Scotland, warning of gusts of up to 60mph in places and 4in (10cm) to 8in (20cm) of snow on higher ground.
The snow warnings also extend to northern parts of England as well as Wales and Northern Ireland.
In Scotland, police said there have been some minor road accidents in the Highlands while in central Scotland the M74 was closed for a time at junction 8 due to ice.
There was a three-vehicle crash at junction 4 on the M77, but no injuries were reported.
The weather has also affected ferry services, with Caledonian MacBrayne warning that “heavy disruptions” are expected.
Northlink ferries and Orkney Ferries also warned that disruption was likely due to the weather.
In Dumfries and Galloway, both Wallace Hall Academy and Wallace Hall Primary School in Thornhill were closed due to the conditions.
The Met Office described the weather as a “real taste of winter” caused by a p olar airmass, which originated over northern Canada, spreading south across the UK.
It follows a wet and windy day on Wednesday for Scotland and the North of England which left homes without power and major travel disruption.
A gust of 93mph was recorded at High Bradfield in South Yorkshire and 82mph at Emley Moor in West Yorkshire.
Engineers worked to reconnect thousands of homes in Yorkshire, Cumbria, Cheshire and the north of Scotland and will be on stand-by throughout Thursday.
The Forth Road Bridge which connects Edinburgh and Fife was closed all day after a lorry was blown over and damaged the central reservation. The bridge was closed to high-sided vehicles at the time of the accident and the 54-year-old driver was charged by Police Scotland.
Paul Gundersen, chief meteorologist at the Met Office, said the heaviest and most frequent snow showers are likely across northern and western Scotland, Northern Ireland and around Irish Sea coasts, but eastern coasts will also be affected in the coming days.
“Most northern areas are very likely to see snow showers at times over the next few days, but the situation over the southern half of England is more complicated,” Mr Gundersen said.
“Southern counties of England and Wales can expect a cold and wet day with some heavy rain on Thursday, but there’s an increasing chance this will turn to sleet or snow, especially over hills, during the afternoon and evening.
“There is a chance of snow settling, bringing disruption to transport during the evening rush-hour and possibly interruptions to power supplies – this more likely across East Anglia and south-east England. As skies clear on Thursday night it is likely to become icy in many areas.
“Forecasting snow is always challenging and there’s often a fine line between whether it will rain or snow in a particular location depending on slight changes in air temperature. Keep an eye on the forecast and warnings for your area for the latest information.”
The Energy Networks Association has reminded people they can call 105 – the new, free national phone line – if the weather damages their local power network and affects their electricity supply.