Edinburgh woke up this morning to “extraordinarily loud” thundersnow storm as extreme weather struck the Scottish city.
Alarmed residents reported hearing "terrifying" bangs as thunder and lightning hit the area just before 5am.
Police were forced to reassure people that the strange noises were just due to the weather after one resident said it “sounded like bombs going off.”
The Met office later confirmed that the thundersnow - a phenomenon which happens when thunder and lightning mix with a heavy snowstorm - had hit Edinburgh, just before daybreak.
Former Great British Bake Off contestant Tom Hetherington said: "Everyone in Edinburgh being woken up by the thundersnow. Most intense thunder I’ve ~ever~ heard. Literally sounds like bombs going off."
Another said: “Happened to be awake so went outside to watch the snow and turned into a near death experience. Timing was impeccable, actually shaking .”
Dr Bryony Coombs tweeted: “Good morning to everyone in #Edinburgh who woke in the middle of the night to huge crashes of thunder, lightning and snow… #thundersnow.”
Another added: "I’ve had a dramatic awakening today with #thundersnow making many Scots wonder if 2020 was serving humanity another survival challenge.
“You may prescribe me the anti-melodrama elixir but it really did feel nuclear. Hope the wee birdies are ok.”
We have have received a number of calls regarding people concerned about explosions heard. Please do not be alarmed, we are currently experiencing thunder and lightning. 🌩️⚡❄️ pic.twitter.com/YyZ9rbBadr
— Police Scotland Control Rooms (@polscotcontrol) December 4, 2020
Police Scotland sent out a message on Twitter early on Friday, urging people “not be alarmed” after they received several reports of “explosions”.
They wrote on Twitter: “We have received a number of calls regarding people concerned about explosions heard.
“Please do not be alarmed, we are currently experiencing thunder and lightning.”
Literally everyone in Edinburgh right now pic.twitter.com/ehZ1FRGqLi
— Alice Hamilton 🌿 (@alicehamilton22) December 4, 2020
Grahame Madge, a Met Office spokesman, confirmed the storm was thundersnow, which happens when thunderstorms forming in wintry conditions give rise to heavy downpours of snow.
If it happens at night, the lightning appears brighter because the light reflects off the snowflakes. However, the snow contained in the thunderstorm dampens the sound of the thunder.
While thunder from a typical thunderstorm may be heard from many miles away, the thunder will only be heard if you are within two to three miles of the lightning during a thundersnow, according to the Met Office website.
Watch: Scotland Wakes to Wintry Landscape After 'Significant' Snow
Mr Madge said: “The wintry conditions across Scotland have led to reports of so-called thundersnow. This is simply precipitation from thunderclouds falling as snow, rather than rain or hail.
“The cold air over relatively warm ground has led to an unstable air mass, creating the atmospheric conditions for the development of thunderstorms.
“Thunder in snowy conditions can sound more muffled.”
The Met Office had issued yellow warnings of snow for much of Scotland on Friday morning.
The Queensferry Crossing, which carries the M90 motorway between Edinburgh and Fife, was closed in both directions this morning due to adverse weather, including snow and falling ice.
Rail passengers were also affected, with ScotRail warning of “significant disruption to services on multiple routes” due to heavy snow.
Meanwhile, thick snow was also falling in Colchester, Essex, this morning with cars moving slowly on main roads due to the poor visibility.
Parts of the north are expected to continue to see “significant snow” over the next 24 hours, while some areas may experience the lowest overnight temperatures of the year.
Alex Burkill, meteorologist at the Met Office, said the “most significant snow” was likely to fall in England, in Cumbria and the Pennines – where areas above 400m could see up to 10cm.
Looks like the entirety of Edinburgh is awake after that boom 😱
— Hannah (@Hannajandro) December 4, 2020
“That’s a significant amount of snow especially this early in December,” he said. “The snowiest months are usually a bit later into winter, January and February and also it’s very early in December at the moment.”
The Met Office also warned that icy temperatures could cause showery rain to fall as sleet or snow in parts of Wales and southern England, such as Wiltshire and Hampshire.
Mr Burkill added that the conditions could “quite easily make it the coldest night of the year so far”.
The coldest weather is still expected in north west Scotland overnight where temperatures could drop to an icy minus 10C (14F).
The previous coldest temperature this year was recorded at Balmoral, Scotland, in February, where the mercury dropped to minus 10.2C (13.6F).
The Met Office said the weekend would see brighter weather and even some sunshine.
It added that temperatures going into next week would be lower than the average annual temperature, which is usually around 7-9C (45-48F).