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How rare is a Met Office red weather warning – and what does it mean? 

The Met Office today issued a red weather warning for wind in Scotland. 

The last time a red wind warning was activated in the UK was for South West England in March 2018.

Today’s alert is the 11th red warning issued by the Met Office since its three-tier system came into use in 2011. 

It also includes yellow warnings for ‘be aware’ and amber for ‘be prepared’. 

The Met Office definition of a red alert is to ‘take action now to keep yourself and others safe from the impact of the weather. Widespread damage, travel and power disruption and risk to life is likely’. 

The 11 red warnings issued by the Met Office since the system began seven years ago are as follows:

  • December 8, 2011: Wind in central and southern Scotland
  • January 3, 2012: Wind in central Scotland
  • July 7, 2012: Rain in Devon and Cornwall
  • January 18, 2013: Snow in South Wales
  • February 12, 2014: Wind in Wales and northern England
  • December 5, 2015: Rain in Cumbria and the Borders (Storm Desmond)
  • December 26, 2016: Rain in Lancashire and Yorkshire
  • January 29, 2016: Wind in Orkney and Shetland
  • February 28, 2018: Snow in central Scotland
  • March 1, 2018: Wind and snow in South West England
  • November 26, 2021: Wind in Northeast England and Scotland (Storm Arwen) 
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A man in Northern Ireland was killed after a falling tree landed on his car as Storm Arwen brought high winds, rain and snow to the UK. 

The man is thought to have been driving with his wife and two children when the fatal accident happened on Dublin Road, Antrim.  

Motorists in areas which fall under the Met Office’s red weather warning have been told they ‘should not travel under any circumstances’ by a senior police officer. 

The Met Office has issued a rare highest ‘danger to life’ warning for wind from 3pm today to 2am tomorrow, with gales forecast to be as high as 90mph and waves as high as 32ft.

Superintendent Simon Bradshaw, from Police Scotland’s Road Policing Unit, said motorists in the area ‘should not travel under any circumstances’ and added those in amber and yellow warning zones should ‘not journey out unless for essential purposes and if you are doing so, to be mindful of the challenging conditions you will face’.

The red warning stretches along the east coast from Middlesbrough to beyond Aberdeen and is the first maximum alert to be issued since Storm Dennis in February 2020.

Grahame Madge, a Met Office spokesman, said the forecaster didn’t ‘issue red warnings lightly’ and warned people to stay away from the affected area.

‘People need to recognise, really, that we don’t issue red warnings lightly so, therefore, when we do, we feel that there is a much higher threat of risk,’ he said.

‘We urge people, obviously, to take action as a result of that and that action in this case is probably don’t go to the coast.

The warning, which is the highest the Met Office issues, means the impact is likely to be severe with the potential for damage to buildings and homes, with roofs blown off and power lines brought down.

The alert also warns people in the zone of the potential of ‘roads, bridges, and railway lines closed, with delays and cancellations to bus, train, ferry services and flights’, and Rod Dennis, of RAC Breakdown, warned of the chance of major disruption and urged motorists to ‘avoid driving if at all possible’.

‘Red warnings from the Met Office are relatively rare and are the strongest possible signal to drivers not to set out in the first place unless absolutely necessary,’ he said.

Most of the UK is blanketed by weather warnings as the storm approaches, with those set to be in force on Saturday.

Mr Dennis said: ‘Drivers in those parts of the UK covered by amber weather warnings should also consider postponing their planned trips until the storm passes.

‘As well as making driving much more challenging, strong winds cause an increased risk of trees and power lines falling. Add snow into the equation and the risks increase significantly.’

ScotRail has already warned of train cancellations because of the storm, and said on many routes it is limiting train speeds.

Temperatures are set to fall with the storm, too, and the Met Office has warned the north east of England, north west of England, Yorkshire, West Midlands and the East Midlands will experience cold weather from Friday to Monday. 

Storm Arwen has claimed her first victim after a driver died when a falling tree landed on his car while he was driving with his wife and two children in Antrim, Northern Ireland, on Friday evening

Storm Arwen has claimed her first victim after a driver died when a falling tree landed on his car while he was driving with his wife and two children in Antrim, Northern Ireland, on Friday evening

Storm Arwen has claimed her first victim after a driver died when a falling tree landed on his car while he was driving with his wife and two children in Antrim, Northern Ireland, on Friday evening

Police direct traffic at the scene of a fatal accident in which a man in Northern Ireland was killed after a falling tree landed on his car as Storm Arwen hit the UK

Police direct traffic at the scene of a fatal accident in which a man in Northern Ireland was killed after a falling tree landed on his car as Storm Arwen hit the UK

Police direct traffic at the scene of a fatal accident in which a man in Northern Ireland was killed after a falling tree landed on his car as Storm Arwen hit the UK

Friday

Friday

Saturday

Saturday

Red, amber and yellow wind and snow warnings have been released for Scotland, western England and Northern Ireland on Friday, before extending to almost the entire of the UK on Saturday

The red warning, which covers areas including Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, will be in place from 3pm today until 2am tomorrow morning

The red warning, which covers areas including Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, will be in place from 3pm today until 2am tomorrow morning

The red warning, which covers areas including Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, will be in place from 3pm today until 2am tomorrow morning

Heavy snow and high winds affecting parts of Scotland today as the Met Office issues a rare red weather warning

Heavy snow and high winds affecting parts of Scotland today as the Met Office issues a rare red weather warning

Heavy snow and high winds affecting parts of Scotland today as the Met Office issues a rare red weather warning

Red alerts - warning of a 'danger to life' - have been issued across Scotland (pictured today)

Red alerts - warning of a 'danger to life' - have been issued across Scotland (pictured today)

Red alerts – warning of a ‘danger to life’ – have been issued across Scotland (pictured today)

A car is seen driving through the snow in Ballater in Aberdeenshire today as Britons brace for Storm Arwen

A car is seen driving through the snow in Ballater in Aberdeenshire today as Britons brace for Storm Arwen

A car is seen driving through the snow in Ballater in Aberdeenshire today as Britons brace for Storm Arwen

Most of the UK is blanketed by weather warnings as the storm approaches, with those set to be in force on Saturday. Pictured: Snowy scenes in the Tomintoul area of Moray, Scotland, on Friday

Most of the UK is blanketed by weather warnings as the storm approaches, with those set to be in force on Saturday. Pictured: Snowy scenes in the Tomintoul area of Moray, Scotland, on Friday

Most of the UK is blanketed by weather warnings as the storm approaches, with those set to be in force on Saturday. Pictured: Snowy scenes in the Tomintoul area of Moray, Scotland, on Friday

The first snowfall of winter 2021 this Northumberland this afternoon as Storm Arwen hits the UK

The first snowfall of winter 2021 this Northumberland this afternoon as Storm Arwen hits the UK

The first snowfall of winter 2021 this Northumberland this afternoon as Storm Arwen hits the UK

Snowfall hit the Tomintoul area of Moray, Scotland, on Friday and forced the A939 to close amid the wild conditions

Snowfall hit the Tomintoul area of Moray, Scotland, on Friday and forced the A939 to close amid the wild conditions

Snowfall hit the Tomintoul area of Moray, Scotland, on Friday and forced the A939 to close amid the wild conditions

Heavy snow and high winds can be seen as a snow plough clears the A93 at Glenshee, Scotland

Heavy snow and high winds can be seen as a snow plough clears the A93 at Glenshee, Scotland

Heavy snow and high winds can be seen as a snow plough clears the A93 at Glenshee, Scotland

Migrants planning to cross the Channel in small boats this weekend face ‘terrifying’ conditions

Migrants planning to cross the Channel in small boats this weekend face ‘terrifying’ conditions that no commercial fishermen would risk, according to local specialists.

The dinghies used by the people traffickers would be tossed around by 5m swells with freezing temperatures and cold sea spray putting the men, women and children at risk of hypothermia.

It comes after an ‘overloaded’ boat capsized in rough seas amid rain and cold weather and was found by fishermen, with three coastguard vessels and a helicopter rushed to the scene. 

Craig Collins, of Channel Angling in Dover, Kent, told the PA news agency: ‘It’s brutal out there, at the moment we’re getting north-westerlies which will just smash the boats.

‘They are coming straight into them, it would be difficult to even get off the beaches and they’ll be facing 16-foot swells, it’s horrendous out there.

‘It would be really hard out there. I wouldn’t want to be out there and no commercial fisherman would go out in that. It’s tragic they are trying to do it.

‘It’s not just the cold, it’s the spray from the water, they will be hypothermic in 20 minutes out there.’

Another fisherman, Manny, said: ‘It’s terrifying, you would think you are going to die. I used to be a commercial fisherman in a 32ft boat and we wouldn’t go out in the conditions that they do and these people haven’t got anything, they’re just in small dinghies.’

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The UK Health Security Agency has issued a cold weather alert and Will Land, head of civil contingencies at the forecaster, said: ‘The UK will see temperatures drop to below average in the coming days, as cold air is drawn in from the north.

‘This is coupled with the strong winds associated with Storm Arwen, which means it will feel especially cold in the wind.

‘Areas in the north will see temperatures below freezing overnight, with daytime maximum temperatures only getting into the low single figures.

‘It’s important to note that strong wind speeds, in excess of 65mph in exposed locations, will exacerbate the cold temperatures we’ll be seeing over the weekend. 

Ben Sheridan, AA patrol of the year, says: ‘Storm Arwen will bring a nasty mix of snow, particularly in the North East and Scotland, and wind which will make visibility poor, especially at night.

‘If you must travel in the worst affected areas, adjust your driving to account for the conditions and leave plenty of space behind other vehicles.

‘Allow extra time, as there may be delays and make sure you pack winter essentials in the car such as warm, waterproof layers, a shovel, a torch, fully charged mobile phone and a flask of hot drink.

‘Watch out for debris on the road and pay attention when passing high-sided vehicles when you encounter strong winds.’

The RNLI tweeted: ‘With #StormArwen named as our first winter storm, we can expect some strong winds and rough weather overnight and into the weekend. We urge people to stay safe near the coast as the severe weather could make our seas and coastlines particularly dangerous.’

The charity said 150 people ‘accidentally lose their lives around UK and Irish waters each year, and over half of these people didn’t plan on ever entering the water’. 

‘If you see someone in danger in the water, call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has urged people to check on elderly relatives or neighbours as the country braces for Storm Arwen to sweep in. 

The Met Office has previously issued an amber weather warning – also meaning lives are in danger – for northeast Scotland and England as well as the west of Wales and Cornwall tomorrow. 

And yellow wind weather warnings are in place for almost the whole of the UK. 

A yellow warning for snow also extends from Surrey across to Oxford and as north as Nottingham. Forecasters warn ‘outbreaks of rain may turn to snow at times across southern and central England during Saturday morning’.

The amber warning will run from 3pm on Friday to 9am on Saturday, with the strongest winds expected in coastal locations. 

Experts have expressed fears that migrants attempting to cross the Channel face ‘terrifying’ conditions that no commercial fishermen would risk – after 27 people lost their lives earlier this week, and a further 50 attempted the treacherous crossing again yesterday. 

Mr Dixon added: ‘There may also be some snow in the lower ground region of northern England, though this is likely to be short-lived and fall in the form of sleet or wintry rain. 

‘It comes on the back of a fall in temperature, with parts of rural Scotland and England to drop below freezing during the night.’

The UKHSA has issued a cold weather alert, and Agostinho Sousa, a consultant in Public Health Medicine at UKHSA, said: ‘Cold weather can have a serious impact on health, particularly for older people and those with heart and lung problems, as it increases the risks of heart attacks, strokes and chest infections.

‘It’s really important to keep checking on older neighbours or relatives, especially those living alone or those who have serious illness.

‘Make a call, or a socially distanced doorstep visit if they live close by, to remind them to heat their home to at least 18C (64.4F) and to keep up to date with the forecast. It’s also helpful to check they have enough food and drinks and any medicines they need.’ 

Stormy seas and huge waves crashed against the pier wall and lighthouse in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, on Friday as Storm Arwen arrived in the North East

Stormy seas and huge waves crashed against the pier wall and lighthouse in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, on Friday as Storm Arwen arrived in the North East

Stormy seas and huge waves crashed against the pier wall and lighthouse in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, on Friday as Storm Arwen arrived in the North East

A woman is seen walking her dog near Belsay village in Northumberland as Storm Arwen hits the UK

A woman is seen walking her dog near Belsay village in Northumberland as Storm Arwen hits the UK

A woman is seen walking her dog near Belsay village in Northumberland as Storm Arwen hits the UK

Cars are seen braving the blizzards in Northumberland today as the UK braces for Storm Arwen

Cars are seen braving the blizzards in Northumberland today as the UK braces for Storm Arwen

Cars are seen braving the blizzards in Northumberland today as the UK braces for Storm Arwen

Temperatures are set to fall with the storm, too, and the Met Office has warned the north east of England will experience cold weather from Friday to Monday. Pictured: Waves crash against the pier wall in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, on Friday

Temperatures are set to fall with the storm, too, and the Met Office has warned the north east of England will experience cold weather from Friday to Monday. Pictured: Waves crash against the pier wall in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, on Friday

Temperatures are set to fall with the storm, too, and the Met Office has warned the north east of England will experience cold weather from Friday to Monday. Pictured: Waves crash against the pier wall in Tynemouth, North Tyneside, on Friday

The RNLI tweeted: 'With #StormArwen named as our first winter storm, we can expect some strong winds and rough weather overnight and into the weekend. We urge people to stay safe near the coast as the severe weather could make our seas and coastlines particularly dangerous'

The RNLI tweeted: 'With #StormArwen named as our first winter storm, we can expect some strong winds and rough weather overnight and into the weekend. We urge people to stay safe near the coast as the severe weather could make our seas and coastlines particularly dangerous'

The RNLI tweeted: ‘With #StormArwen named as our first winter storm, we can expect some strong winds and rough weather overnight and into the weekend. We urge people to stay safe near the coast as the severe weather could make our seas and coastlines particularly dangerous’

Average temperatures for this time of year – and how they’ve changed over the years

1970: 7.0C

1980: 5.9C

1990: 6.6C

2000: 6.7C

2010: 4.9C

2020: 8.1C

Source: Sheffield Weather 

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The Met Office said temperatures would plummet to below average over the weekend.

Will Lang, head of civil contingencies at the Met Office, said: ‘The UK will see temperatures drop to below average in the coming days, as cold air is drawn in from the north. This is coupled with the strong winds associated with Storm Arwen, which means it will feel especially cold in the wind.

‘Areas in the north will see temperatures below freezing overnight, with daytime maximum temperatures only getting into the low single figures.

‘It’s important to note that strong wind speeds, in excess of 65mph in exposed locations, will exacerbate the cold temperatures we’ll be seeing over the weekend.’

Within the amber area and near the coasts large waves could see material thrown on to coastal roads, sea fronts and buildings, the Met Office has warned.  

The RAC has advised drivers to prepare for strong gusts by slowing down and being ‘very careful’ when passing high-sided vehicles or cyclists. 

Spokesman Simon Williams said: ‘In extreme windy conditions, bridges may also be closed and trees may fall so it’s important to allow extra time for journeys.

‘With forecasters predicting strong winds together with colder conditions, drivers should take this opportunity to prepare their vehicles for winter by checking oil and coolant levels, ensuring they have enough good quality screen wash that protects down to well below minus 10C, as well as having properly inflated tyres with good tread.’ 

Met Office Principal Meteorologist Dan Suri said: ‘Storm Arwen is associated with a deep low pressure system that will impact the northeast in particular from Friday, but will also bring wider impacts to the UK with high winds, rain and some snow probable over the high ground.

‘Storm Arwen’s impacts are mainly associated with high winds as the storm sinks southwards and will widely bring gusts of up to 65mph in coastal areas, although slightly stronger in the northeast, with in excess of 75mph possible in exposed locations.’ 

A Met Office spokesman told MailOnline: ‘We could see blizzard conditions on the highlands. Snow will start from today and showers could fall as snow today through to Thursday. On Friday there will be a lot of rain in northeast Scotland and over the highlands that could fall as snow.  

The Met Office has issued an amber weather warning - meaning lives are in danger - for northeast Scotland and England as well as yellow weather warnings for Friday and Saturday. Forecasters warn snow is possible, 'almost anywhere away from the far-south'. Pictured, waves at Roker Lighthouse in Sunderland today

The Met Office has issued an amber weather warning - meaning lives are in danger - for northeast Scotland and England as well as yellow weather warnings for Friday and Saturday. Forecasters warn snow is possible, 'almost anywhere away from the far-south'. Pictured, waves at Roker Lighthouse in Sunderland today

The Met Office has issued an amber weather warning – meaning lives are in danger – for northeast Scotland and England as well as yellow weather warnings for Friday and Saturday. Forecasters warn snow is possible, ‘almost anywhere away from the far-south’. Pictured, waves at Roker Lighthouse in Sunderland today

The Met Office names storms on the back of their potential impact, with Storm Arwen declared as the result of the amber wind warning

The Met Office names storms on the back of their potential impact, with Storm Arwen declared as the result of the amber wind warning

The Met Office names storms on the back of their potential impact, with Storm Arwen declared as the result of the amber wind warning

Temperatures could plummet to as low as -4C in the Scottish Highlands overnight on Saturday into Sunday

Temperatures could plummet to as low as -4C in the Scottish Highlands overnight on Saturday into Sunday

Temperatures could plummet to as low as -4C in the Scottish Highlands overnight on Saturday into Sunday

Temperatures in the UK at this time of year usually average a daily high of 10C and a low of 4C, but are set to plummet, with lows up -4C in Scotland on Saturday night. Pictured, Met Office weather maps

Temperatures in the UK at this time of year usually average a daily high of 10C and a low of 4C, but are set to plummet, with lows up -4C in Scotland on Saturday night. Pictured, Met Office weather maps

Temperatures in the UK at this time of year usually average a daily high of 10C and a low of 4C, but are set to plummet, with lows up -4C in Scotland on Saturday night. Pictured, Met Office weather maps

Temperatures will plummet this weekend with the 'feels like temperature' set to 0C and -2C in Scotland

Temperatures will plummet this weekend with the 'feels like temperature' set to 0C and -2C in Scotland

The Met Office has warned the extreme wind could close bridges and roads as well as see tiles blown off buildings over the weekend. Pictured, a map of the wind direction

The Met Office has warned the extreme wind could close bridges and roads as well as see tiles blown off buildings over the weekend. Pictured, a map of the wind direction

The Met Office has warned the extreme wind could close bridges and roads as well as see tiles blown off buildings over the weekend. Pictured, a map of the wind direction

‘As the temperature drops off through Friday night there’s a chance we could see snow falling over higher ground in Wales, the Pennines and a dash across East Anglia.’

He added: ‘Showers could fall as snow over higher ground in Scotland. It’ll be windy in north and western Scotland. That cold front sticks through the day and brings cold to rest of UK with widespread frost behind the cold front.’ 

Meanwhile, Labrokes is predicting next month will be the coldest December on record with 2/1 bets. 

Alex Apati of Ladbrokes said: ‘A White Christmas will come at a freezing cold cost if the latest odds are anything to go by, with next month looking increasingly likely to break records on the weather front for all the wrong reasons.’

The strong winds are set to affect the majority of the UK, with only a small part of south-east England avoiding a yellow weather warning.

He added: ‘The cold front is just lingering over the south at this point. There will be showers in northern Scotland and a chance of snow across high ground but it probably will not be settling. 

‘It is mostly dry elsewhere. In the evening the rain moves into the northwest. There could be some snow on the edge of that in the cold air but it’ll quickly turn to rain as it moves to Scotland and warmer air comes across.’

He said there will be a change on Friday, and weather warnings were put out at 9.51am Tuesday for ‘strong winds’. ‘A low pressure area brings strong winds and heavy rains to northern parts of the UK and spreads to a wider area of the UK through Saturday.’

‘Along with the wind we’ve got heavier rain in north England and south Scotland. Later on Friday that could start to fall as snow over the highlands, which is not unusual for the end of November. 

‘Later in the evening wet and windy weather spreads south. There might be the odd snow flurry in the south but it’s unlikely to settle. It’s wet and increasingly windy across large parts of the UK. Peak gust speed is 80mph and it is windy after a mild November. There are still leaves on trees so it could cause disruption’.  

A Met office forecaster said Friday would be ‘cold and unsettled with showers and occasional longer spells of rain’ as well as ‘often windy, with potential for severe gales in the west on Friday and Saturday.’ 

The BBC’s monthly forecast for November says ‘a surge of colder Icelandic air will spill across the UK over the final 10 days of November’ and this could linger into the beginning of December. 

‘A secondary push of colder Icelandic air’ is expected late next week, which will further drop temperatures’ the forecast states, adding that ‘sharp frosts may occur during some evenings late in the week’.

As temperatures drop, ‘a few spells of rain showers and even some patchy snow showers’ may hit the UK, mainly in Scotland, with winds also experiencing an uptick as the week progresses.  

November has seen warmer than normal temperatures so far, particularly in parts of eastern Scotland, which are expected to continue until the end of the weekend. 

The calm conditions have been cited as one of the reasons why so many migrants are successfully crossing the English Channel from northern France. 

Ruairidh Roberts, UK Country Manager at Waze, said: ‘As parts of the UK brace themselves for the effects of the arctic plunge and Storm Arwen, we urge motorists making essential journeys to be extra diligent.’

‘At Waze, we are expecting delays around the country as the turbulent weather causes chaos on British roads. As a result, we’ve sent out push notifications to our app users, encouraging them to report hazards caused by the bad weather, helping to keep fellow drivers safe and aware of what may be ahead of them on journeys this weekend.’

‘To report weather-related issues in Waze, users should tap the report button > hazard > weather, and select the option relevant to the event. Drivers can also use voice commands by saying ‘Ok Waze’ and following the options to report weather disruption.’ 

Source: Daily Mail

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