Britain is set for a weekend washout as forecasters predict at least five days of heavy rain – triggering fears of flooding – amid a severe cold weather alert.
Torrential downpours will sweep in from the west on Thursday and move eastwards before stalling over Scotland and eastern England, the Met Office said.
That barrage will be followed by more showers on Friday, with up to 4ins possible in Scotland, where a heavy rain warning is in effect.
Heavy outbursts will continue through the weekend and into Monday. Snow is expected to fall over higher ground in Scotland early next week as unsettled weather continues to arrive from the Atlantic, the Met Office said.
It comes as a cold weather alert remains in place across eastern parts of England as temperatures plunged below zero overnight.
The Met Office issued a level 2 (yellow) alert, meaning “alert and readiness”, as cold weather posed a threat to vulnerable Britons.
It warned: “There is a 60% probability of severe cold weather between 9am on Friday 04 December and 9am on Thursday 10 December in parts of England.
“This weather could increase the health risks to vulnerable patients and disrupt the delivery of services.”
On Wednesday, the coldest place was Frittenden, Kent, where the temperature dropped to -2.5C.
Heavy rain will the primary concern from Thursday, however.
Most parts of the UK will be cloudy “with a little rain or drizzle” on Thursday.
But there will be some bright skies at times, primarily in the east and north, and to the south-west in the afternoon.
Heavy rain will move across Northern Ireland and into Wales and South West England later in the day.
As bands of rain move east, they will move slowly over Scotland and eastern England overnight, with some outbreaks in the west and south-west.
On Friday, the heaviest rain is expected in eastern Scotland, including Perth and Aberdeen, where a yellow warning is in place for 33 hours from 3am.
Up to 4ins could fall by 12pm on Saturday.
The Met Office warned: “Heavy rain will fall throughout Friday and into Saturday morning across parts of eastern Scotland with accumulations around 40-60mm, but with the potential for 100mm over high ground.”
There will be further outbreaks of rain on Saturday and rain across all parts of the UK on Sunday.
Monday will bring a mixture of sunshine and heavy showers.
In its long-term forecast, the Met Office said higher ground in Scotland will see another blast of snow from Monday.
Milder temperatures are likely in many places next week but there will be some heavy rain in the west and north, as well as coastal gales.