Will snow hit the UK this week? How you can protect your farm

With this week expected to bring a return of freezing weather conditions, farmers have been warned to take measures that will help protect their farms and avoid taking unnecessary risks while driving.

Will snow hit the UK this week? How you can protect your farm

Met Office has issued yellow warnings for snow and ice across North Wales, Scotland, the Midlands and North of England, beginning on Thursday, 8th February, with as much as 20cm of snow possible in higher areas. However, the forecaster has stated there can be little certainty in when or where snow will fall. The Met Office has also issued a yellow warning for ice in northern Scotland overnight on Tuesday, 6th February.

Sudden cold snaps can bring an increase in claims and accidents. Rural roads could become particularly treacherous in these conditions. With uncertainty over the level and timing of snowfall, NFU Mutual is urging motorists to take extra care on the roads.

Snow, sleet and rain

Met Office deputy chief meteorologist Chris Almond said that while the early part of this week will see some rain, at times heavy, gradually sinking southwards, there’s an increased signal for “wintry hazards” as we move through the week, while cold air from the north will move over the UK.

He added: “It’s from Thursday that the snow risk becomes more potentially impactful, as mild air attempts to move back in from the south, bumping into the cold air and increasing the chance of snow developing on the leading edge.

“While there are still lots of details to work out, the initial snow risk looks highest in northern England and Wales from Thursday. 1-2cm is possible to low levels, with 10-20cm possible over the highest ground within the warning area. This snow will likely gradually transition to sleet and rain later on from the south.”

With a developing weather situation, it is likely warnings will be issued and amended through the week, with an ongoing chance of ice warnings for some. Temperatures could drop as low as -10°C in rural parts of Scotland on Wednesday night, though it will be less cold further south.

Snow and ice make road conditions significantly more deadly, reducing visibility and increasing stopping distances, and sudden periods of cold weather often lead to a spike in car insurance claims.

Avoid taking risks

NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Hannah Binns asked farmers to take extreme care while working in wintery hazards and prioritise safety. She added: “We understand the pressures farmers are under, but it is vital they avoid taking risks which could lead to injury or fatalities.

“In this weather, it is a good idea for lone workers to inform someone where they will be and what time they are expected back, and it is also worth carrying a charged mobile phone and using the What3Words App to help provide a location in the event of an emergency.

“We know many farmers will be preparing for the cold weather by using additional feed for livestock reared outdoors and moving stock from exposed areas where possible. Water supplies can also be affected by falling temperatures, so farmers can ensure alternative source of water in case of frozen pipes and troughs.

“The freeze and thaw effect can cause pipes to burst so we’d urge farmers to check pipes around outbuildings, farmyards and their homes every few hours as the temperatures rise above freezing so they can isolate a leak before it causes devastating damage.

“Treacherous conditions on rural roads may also cause additional challenges for farm businesses and their day-to-day activities. Motorists should remember that visibility may be reduced and stopping distances increased during the freezing weather and must adjust their driving accordingly.”

Drive accordingly

NFU Mutual, which campaigns on rural road safety and recently announced plans to create a Code for Countryside Roads, warns that isolated rural roads can be made particularly treacherous in icy or snowy conditions.  

Rural road safety specialist at NFU Mutual, Andrew Chalk, said: “With snow and ice forecasted for large parts of the UK this week, we’re concerned that complacent motorists could be putting themselves or others in danger by not adjusting their driving accordingly.  

“In snowy or icy weather, it is imperative to give fellow road users more space than usual, leaving larger stopping distances and slowing down appropriately at corners. Low winter sun, ice and compacted snow create a perfect storm, reducing visibility at the same time as reducing control of the vehicle, so take your time and remain patient with other road users.  

“As a campaigner on rural road safety, we particularly want to warn people of the risk of rural roads in this weather. In our 2023 Rural Road Safety Report, we asked road users for their biggest concerns when it comes to rural road safety. Around two-thirds were worried about blind corners, with over half concerned about narrow, winding roads and poor road quality, with 46% worried about poor visibility. Unfortunately, these are the very factors which are made worse in the snow and ice.  

“With accidents on rural roads causing 72% more deaths than those on urban roads, we’re imploring all road users to take seriously the threat of icy or snowy weather on rural roads, and to follow our advice below.”  

NFU Mutual provided a number of tips for farmers who will be driving in the snow and ice

Before setting off:  

  • Avoid using your vehicle unless you have to. If a trip can be put off until a safer time, it is best to do so.  
  • Plan your journey before you leave, checking weather forecasts for badly hit areas and making sure your route sticks to main roads as much as possible.  
  • Pack your car with winter-ready screen wash, de-icer, an ice scraper and sunglasses to combat low winter sun.  
  • Prepare for the possibility of getting stuck, packing some spare warm clothes, a blanket, a charged mobile phone and torch, and some water and snacks.  
  • Tell family and friends where you are going and when you expect to arrive.  
  • Ensure your vehicle’s wiper fluid is topped up.  
  • Ensure your vehicle’s tires are at the correct pressure.  
  • Make sure your headlights and foglights are working and you know how to operate them.  
  • Thoroughly de-ice and de-fog windows and remove snow from the roof of the vehicle.  

While driving: 

  • Drive slowly and steadily and leave larger gaps between vehicles. Icy conditions can increase stopping distances by ten times.  
  • Avoid braking suddenly, slowing down gently before corners and junctions.  
  • Accelerate slowly, keeping revs low to avoid wheelspin.  
  • Drive in as high a gear as possible to avoid wheelspin.  
  • Take care coming up to junctions where road markings may be covered by snow or frost.  
  • Don’t use cruise control in icy or snowy conditions.  

Read more about rural road safety here.

NFU Mutual has recently offered some advice to help farmers protect themselves and their businesses during stormy weather.

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