DRIVERS have been urged to stay alert on the roads tonight as ice warnings cover half the country and temperatures plunge to a bone-chilling -4C.
Two yellow weather warnings for ice will be in place until midnight on Friday, with drivers warned of "potentially tricky conditions".
The Met Office said Brits should be prepared for an icy Friday night before a chilly weekend.
The forecaster warned there will probably be icy patches forming on some untreated roads, pavements and cycle paths – meaning accidents and injuries are more likely.
The Met Office said: "Early wintry showers in the north, and rain, sleet and hill snow further south will leave surfaces cold and wet by early evening.
"Clear spells for a time will allow ice to form in places, particularly for evening commuters, before temperatures trend up after midnight.
"The warning area highlights areas considered most likely to see ice."
It comes ahead of a cold weekend, with Scotland, northern England, the Midlands, Yorkshire and Northern Ireland expected to be the areas worst affected by the wave of freezing weather.
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Meteorologist Richard Miles said: "It’s going to be colder than we have been used to over the last couple of days and Christmas.
"We are going into a period when temperatures will be dropping quite a bit."
Brits today woke up to a bracing -4C, with countless schools north of the border forced to close due to snow-covered routes making journeys impossible.
And this weekend's chill will go hand-in-hand with a wave of "thundersnow" in coastal areas from Friday, it has been claimed.
Thundersnow is a freak phenomenon that is similar to a thunderstorm – but snow falls instead of heavy rain.
Up to 10cm of the white stuff could fall on high grounds this weekend – while "slushy" snow could freeze and cause dangerous icy patches on the roads elsewhere.
It follows an already chilly week, with temperatures plunging as low as -8C on Wednesday – making it the coldest night of winter.
The weekend weather is expected to remain unsettled, with milder spells, as a spiralling area of low pressure brings changeable weather conditions to the UK.
Following the cold blast from the snowstorms, an Atlantic weather front is then set to bring massive downpours.
Liverpool and Manchester could be soaked by up to 5mm of rain an hour on Saturday, before the initial band of rain heads further across the country.
And meteorologists say intermittent rainfall is expected on Sunday, before patches of rain and snow hit parts of Britain.
The Met Office confirmed that temperatures plunged to -8C in Topcliffe, North Yorkshire in the early hours of Thursday, making it the coldest night in England so far.
Looking ahead, the UK should see more settled conditions from next Wednesday.
The Met Office said: "Temperatures will be generally around average, but there is a risk of some colder nights with local frost and fog.
"Spells of rain, drizzle and stronger winds are likely further north, with temperatures near to or slightly above average here.
"Confidence decreases through the period, but a return to generally more unsettled conditions across the UK is likely later on, with western and northwestern parts expected to continue to see the wettest and windiest weather.
"Temperatures likely to remain around average."
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