Severe weather

Severe weather conditions can cause widespread disruption and even pose a threat to safety. The MET Office monitors weather conditions in the UK and uses the National Severe Weather Warning Service to issue warnings when severe weather is likely.

National Severe Weather Warning Service

You should regularly check your local weather forecast to keep up to date with the latest weather warnings. An overview of all of the current weather warnings in the UK can be found on the MET Office website.

MET Office severe weather warnings are issued for hazardous conditions involving rain, wind, fog, snow and ice - and use a coloured scale to indicate both the likelihood and the foreseeable impacts of the particular conditions.

For your own safety, it is vital that you understand the information that is issued relating to severe weather, and what to do when you are affected.

Warning levelWhat this means
GreenNo Severe Weather: There is a very low risk of severe weather, however you should still monitor your local weather forecast and make sure you're prepared for severe weather in the future.
YellowBe Aware: Severe weather is possible over the next few days and may affect you. You should plan ahead, making sure that you are prepared for issues such as power outages and supply shortages as conditions may worsen. Travel delays and disruptions to your day to day activities are possible, and you should monitor the situation based on the MET Office forecast.
AmberBe Prepared:  There is an increased likelihood of bad weather affecting you, which is likely to disrupt your plans and cause travel delays. Disruption to power and other services is likely, so make sure you are prepared with torches, wind-up radios, warm clothing and blankets. You should continue to monitor the MET Office forecast and warnings, and should look out for vulnerable family, friends and community members.
RedTake Action:   Extreme weather is expected, with widespread damage, disruption and risk to life is likely. You must act immediately to keep yourself and others safe from the weather, particularly by avoiding dangerous areas and following the advice of the emergency services and local authorities.

What to expect and what actions to take 

The sections below provide information as to the impacts that are likely to be witnessed during each of the severe weather events for which MET Office weather warnings are provided, and some general advice on what you should do to protect yourself from them.

Each weather warning will have an impact level of either:

  • very low
  • low
  • medium
  • high
RatingAction required
Very LowSome slippery road surfaces may be possible due to small amounts of snow on roads and pavements, therefore traffic is likely to move slower than usual. Take extra care when walking, cycling or driving in affected areas.
LowRoad networks will remain generally open, despite more widespread snow lying on roads and pavements. Localised travel disruption may occur, however will mainly only affect particularly prone areas. Journeys through affected areas are likely to take longer than usual, and extra care should be taken when walking, cycling or driving.
MediumWidespread snow will result in a number of road closures, with others passable only with extreme care and by suitable vehicles. Disruption to public transport is likely, and significant delays are likely to affect all journeys.

Widespread deep snow will leave many roads closed and impassible. Driving in these conditions is highly likely to result in drivers becoming stranded and there will be a risk to personal safety. Significant disruption to all forms of transport, as well as school and infrastructure closures will likely disrupt normal day to day life. Any unnecessary journeys should be avoided.

RatingAction required
Very LowLocalised icy stretches on some untreated roads and pavements may occur, therefore extra care should be taken when walking, cycling or driving.
LowRoad networks will remain generally open, despite more widespread icy stretches on untreated roads and pavements. Extra care should be taken when walking, cycling or driving, and journeys are likely to take longer than usual.

Widespread black ice may occur, with some roads only passable with care. Road collisions are possible, and slips and falls are significantly more likely.

RatingAction required
Very LowLimited flooding of low lying fields, recreational land and car parks may occur, but disruption to travel is unlikely. Take care when driving as wet roads and pooling surface water may make conditions difficult.
LowFlooding of low lying fields, recreational land and car parks is likely, with a small number of homes and businesses also affected. Local travel will be disrupted resulting in longer journey times, and water on roads may make driving difficult. Drive carefully according to the conditions, and aim to avoid areas that are prone to flooding.
MediumSome flooding of homes, businesses and transport links is likely, resulting in disruption to travel. Utility supplies and telecoms are likely to be disrupted, and some evacuations may be necessary. Be prepared to protect yourself and your property, and look out for vulnerable friends, family and members of the community.
HighThere will be widespread flooding of properties, and due to the significant risk to life, evacuation should be expected. Travel and utilities will be severely disrupted - make sure you look out for vulnerable friends, family and members of the community. Above all else, take action to ensure your own safety and follow the advice of the emergency services.
RatingAction required
Very LowSome dislodged debris and branches may occur, with some very limited travel disruption. This is most likely to be on exposed or high level routes, on which vulnerable vehicles (high-sided) should be cautious.
LowSome branches or trees may be brought down, causing localised travel disruption. Drivers should be wary on exposed or wind prone routes, particularly those of vulnerable vehicles. Be aware of small debris being blown around.
MediumMore widespread tree damage is likely, as is other debris such as slates dislodged from roofs. Some minor structural damage is possible, and there is a risk of injury from flying debris. Be prepared for disruption to travel, such as bridge and road closures, as well as localised interruptions to power.
HighWidespread structural damage will occur, such as roofs being blown off, mobile homes overturned and power lines being brought down. Where possible, avoid prolonged close proximity to high walls and standing beneath trees. There will be a risk to personal safety therefore unnecessary travel should be avoided. Widespread disruption to travel and power supplies is likely and may be prolonged.
RatingAction required
Very LowSome limited geographical areas may be affected by non-persistent fog, however care should be taken in these areas, especially when driving.
LowMore widespread, locally dense fog is likely to affect significant areas but will not persist for more than 1 to 2 days. Extra care should be taken when driving through affected areas, and journeys may take longer than usual. Public transport may be disrupted, particularly air travel.
MediumWidespread and dense fog affecting large areas may persist for many days. Travel disruption is likely, particularly as affected airports may close, and drivers should be extremely careful in affected areas.

Heatwave advice

When a weather warning for a heatwave has been issued by the Met Office, Public Health England has some good advice for coping with the heat.

Stay out of the heat:

  • Keep out of the sun between 11am and 3pm.
  • If you have to go out in the heat, walk in the shade, apply sunscreen and wear a hat and light scarf.
  • Avoid extreme physical exertion.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting cotton clothes.

Cool yourself down:

  • Have plenty of cold drinks, and avoid excess alcohol, caffeine and hot drinks.
  • Eat cold foods, particularly salads and fruit with a high water content.
  • Take a cool shower, bath or body wash.
  • Sprinkle water over the skin or clothing, or keep a damp cloth on the back of your neck.

Keep your environment cool:

  • Keeping your living space cool is especially important for infants, the elderly or those with chronic health conditions or who can't look after themselves.
  • Place a thermometer in your main living room and bedroom to keep a check on the temperature.
  • Keep windows that are exposed to the sun closed during the day, and open windows at night when the temperature has dropped.
  • Close curtains that receive morning or afternoon sun. However, care should be taken with metal blinds and dark curtains, as these can absorb heat - consider replacing or putting reflective material in-between them and the window space.
  • Turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment - they generate heat.
  • Keep indoor plants and bowls of water in the house as evaporation helps cool the air.
  • If possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping.
  • Electric fans may provide some relief, if temperatures are below 35°C.

Look out for others:

  • Keep an eye on isolated, elderly, ill or very young people and make sure they are able to keep cool.
  • Ensure that babies, children or elderly people are not left alone in stationary cars.
  • Check on elderly or sick neighbours, family or friends every day during a heatwave.
  • Be alert and call a doctor or social services if someone is unwell or further help is needed.

If you have a health problem:

  • Keep medicines below 25 °C or in the refrigerator (read the storage instructions on the packaging).
  • Seek medical advice if you are suffering from a chronic medical condition or taking multiple medications.

If you or others feel unwell:

  • Try to get help if you feel dizzy, weak, anxious or have intense thirst and headache; move to a cool place as soon as possible and measure your body temperature.
  • Drink some water or fruit juice to rehydrate.
  • Rest immediately in a cool place if you have painful muscular spasms (particularly in the legs, arms or abdomen, in many cases after sustained exercise during very hot weather), and drink oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes.
  • Medical attention is needed if heat cramps last more than one hour.
  • Consult your doctor if you feel unusual symptoms or if symptoms persist.

In the longer term:

  • Consider putting up external shading outside windows.
  • Use pale, reflective external paints.
  • Have your loft and cavity walls insulated - this keeps the heat in when it is cold and out when it is hot.
  • Grow trees and leafy plants near windows to act as natural air-conditioners.