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Road crews struggle to keep rural roads open across Suffolk and Essex

PUBLISHED: 16:40 01 March 2018 | UPDATED: 16:40 01 March 2018

Snow fences were used in the 1990s to keep the A14 and A140 clear during blizzards. Picture: ARCHANT

Snow fences were used in the 1990s to keep the A14 and A140 clear during blizzards. Picture: ARCHANT

Road crews from Suffolk and Essex struggled to keep major roads open in rural parts of the counties on Thursday as a combination of dry snow and gusty winds caused major problems.

Snow is being blown back on to roads after they have been treated.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Snow is being blown back on to roads after they have been treated. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Some major roads were impassable for much of the day with problems caused by powdery snow or black ice caused serious problems for motorists.

Drivers of gritting lorries were doing the longest possible shifts – 12 hours – in a bid to keep their vehicles on the road. With shift changes the lorries were only in the depots as long as it took to refill them and ensure they had enough fuel.

The A140 had problems along much of its length in Suffolk and Norfolk. At the start of the road at Beacon Hill, just after the junction with the A14, lorries were unable to get to the top – forcing the closure of the road to all traffic.

There were more problems at Stonham near the Magpie pub, at Brockford and across the county border at Scole.

As well as black ice, powdery snow also caused a problem on many rural routes – especially on the Shotley peninsula.

A spokesman for Suffolk Highways said: “We haven’t seen anything like this for years. At Shotley we were trying to clear a road and everytime the snowplough moved the snow off the surface the wind blew it back.

“We tried about 20 runs before we had to give it up. There comes a time when you just have to say to people: ‘I’m sorry but it’s best to stay indoors’.”

In the 1990s snow fences were installed along the A14 at Trimley and the A140 at Stonham during the winter to prevent snow blowing on to the road – but they haven’t been seen for about 15 years.

A spokesman for the county council said this was the first winter since they stopped being used that they might have had an effect. But that was doubtful because the powdery nature of the snow meant it could well have blown straight through the fence.

In Essex the A120, which is operated by Highways England, was blocked for much of the morning at Wix near Harwich after a number of vehicles were abandoned after being involved in minor accidents.

Suffolk Highways managers are expecting their vehicles to be out around the clock until at least the weekend in a bid to keep as many roads open as possible.

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