Met Office urges people to keep homes heated as big freeze is coming

UK weather: Met Office forecasts chilly temperatures and snow

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The most vulnerable members of society are being urged to keep their homes heated as sub-zero temperatures descend on the UK. The Met Office guidance comes as part of its Level 3 amber alert which was issued today in preparation for icy, snowy and frosty conditions which are set to arrive by Wednesday, December 7. The alert, covering all of England, comes into place from 6pm on this day until 9am next Monday. But during this time, people aged over 65, those with mobility issues and long-term illnesses have been told to keep their homes at 18C to avert more medical issues.

Its guidance says: “Look out for friends and family who may be vulnerable to the cold, and ensure they have access to warm food and drinks and are managing to heat their homes adequately. Try to maintain indoor temperatures to at least 18C, particularly if you are not mobile, have a long-term illness or are 65 or over.

“Avoid exposing yourself to cold or icy outdoor conditions if you are at a higher risk of cold-related illness or falls.” It says there is a 90 percent probability of severe cold weather which could be set to increase health risks to vulnerable patients and disrupt the delivery of services.

Jim Dale, senior meteorologist at British Weather Services, told that an Arctic blast is making its way to the UK and will be hitting Scotland first. He said: “It’s crossing the northern North Sea as we speak. All set, likely to be a sustained freezing plunge. It will be circa 10 days minimum, sporadic outbreaks of snow and energy use will rocket.”

Many people will be forced to switch on their heating as the weather deteriorates after an especially mild autumn. But during an energy crisis, where bills have more than doubled, those living in poverty will be anxious about using their central heating.

There is also a severe lack of homes without insulation – meaning many will be drafty and letting out that all-important heat during a time when outdoor temperatures are below freezing. The UK ranks among the worst in Europe for the energy efficiency of its homes, according to new research.

While National Grid has refused to comment to about the extra demand that will come with colder temperatures, the firm’s Winter Outlook confirmed it does have enough energy to last throughout the winter.

This is despite the head of the National Grid previously warning British households that blackouts may be imposed in early 2023. In a “worst case scenario” homes would be plunged into darkness between 4pm and 7pm on “really, really cold” January and February winter weekdays if Europe was to cut its gas exports.

Fintan Slye, director of Electricity System Operator, said in the company’s Winter Outlook documents: “Our central view remains that there will be adequate margins through the winter to ensure Great Britain remains within the reliability standard, although we expect there to be days where we will need to utilise many of the tools in our operational toolkit, including use of system notices.” 

Peak times for people to put their heating on is of an evening – when the mercury outside continues to drop. But the Met Office says it won’t just be the nights when the bone-chilling cold moves in, it will also be during the day. Although there are some uncertainties around how long this cold spell will last it is expected to stay cold into next week with temperatures remaining well below average for the time of year.

Its alert statement said: “Rather cold conditions are expected to turn colder across much of the UK later Wednesday and through Thursday as air from the Arctic spreads south across the country. Very cold nights are expected, with widespread frosts and potentially severe frosts.

“Daytime temperatures persisting near or just above freezing, with overnight temperatures continuing to trend downwards. Wintry showers are also likely to affect some coasts, perhaps pushing into some inland areas at times, bringing a risk of icy patches.”

Meanwhile, parts of Scotland will be under a yellow weather warning for snow on Wednesday. The Met Office adds: “Showers will fall as snow to low levels on Wednesday. Accumulations of 2-5 cm are possible at lower levels, with 5-10 cm above 200 metres, with some drifting and blizzard conditions in the strong northerly winds.”

Met Office deputy chief meteorologist, Rebekah Sherwin, said: “Temperatures will start to dip this week, with daytime temperatures struggling to get above freezing in many places from mid-week onwards. However, the cold air from the Arctic will also bring brighter conditions, with some dry, sunny spells in many areas, particularly away from the coast.

“Showers will turn more wintry as the week goes on with a risk of snow at times. A yellow National Severe Weather Warning for snow has been issued for Wednesday covering northern Scotland. We can expect to see some snow and wintry showers further south as the week progresses, particularly in coastal areas or over higher ground. There will be widespread frosts with temperatures falling to as low as -10C overnight in isolated spots by the end of the week.”

Dr Agostinho Sousa, consultant in public health medicine at UKHSA, said: “Cold weather can have serious consequences for health, and older people and those with heart or lung conditions can be particularly at risk. If you have a pre-existing medical condition, you should heat your home to a temperature that is comfortable for you.

“In rooms you mostly use such as the living room or bedroom, try to heat them to at least 18C if you can. Keep your bedroom windows closed at night. Wearing several layers of clothing will keep you warmer than one thicker layer.”

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