More snow expected as big freeze goes on

SNOWSTORMS are predicted to sweep across the region again today, with no let up to the cold snap in sight.

James Hore

SNOWSTORMS are predicted to sweep across the region again today, with no let up to the cold snap in sight.

Council chiefs and local businesses are now starting to count the cost, as the region becomes accustomed to dealing with the erratic surges of snow seen in the last few weeks.

Nearly a million pounds has been spent on keeping gritters on the roads every day in Suffolk since the first severe snowfall in December 17, using up a year's supply of salt in less than a month.

Although Suffolk has so far avoided the very worst of the weather, snow is likely to become mainly confined to the southeast today with widespread ice expected to disrupt transport.

Once again, only priority routes are to be gritted this morning as temperatures are set to drop sharply, leading to icy conditions on untreated roads.

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The council's highways team of 38 gritters and 100 staff will continue to treat priority routes according to the conditions, but face a depleting salt stock and have stressed a need for prudence.

Despite shoppers stocking up on essential food items before more snow arrives, Mike Sorhaindo, centre manager at Tower Ramparts in Ipswich, said trade in the town centre was likely to suffer.

Anti-freeze products, boots and thermal underwear proved popular, alongside cat litter, which can be used in place of grit to clear paths and driveways.

But Mr Sorhaindo said: “It's fair to say that, because of the snow, people are less keen to venture out. So undoubtedly there will be a lot of shoppers who may have intended to make a trip to Ipswich but will instead stay at home.

“Most retailers had a very brisk spell of trade from Boxing Day until now but many rely not only on shoppers but workers visiting in their lunch breaks who may choose not to.”

Flash warnings have been issued for East of England by The Met Office, which predicts more outbreaks of snow into next month and has advised people to keep abreast of traffic disruption on the roads.

Sunny intervals will break through but the outlook for Friday to Sunday is very cold with further heavy snow in many places.

Poor weather yesterday resulted in the closure of 97 of schools in the region, with many expected to remain shut today.

Travel conditions worsened as heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures took hold.

Felixstowe Port announced the launch of Operation Stack amid treacherous driving conditions and traffic consequently moved slowly both ways on the A14.

Meanwhile, hundreds of homes and businesses in Felixstowe lost power for around ten minutes before electricity was restored.

Snow also delayed the start of the latest phase of a �2.8 million revamp for the town centre and cut car congestion.

On the rail, trains ran around 25 minutes late between Liverpool Street and Norwich, a revised train service was put into operation between Liverpool Street and Lowestoft, and some peak services were cancelled entirely due to the poor weather.

Paramedics responded to a number of collisions on Suffolk's roads as driving conditions deteriorated.

A car crashed into a ditch in Creeting St Mary shortly before 2pm, injuring the 25-year-old driver, who was treated at the scene.

Moments later, two cars collided in Dalinghoo, near Woodbridge. An air ambulance crew were called as a precaution but no one involved was badly hurt.

At around 2.55pm another two vehicle collision was reported in Spring Lane, Bury St Edmunds. The cars had collided at a slow speed and again no one was badly injured but a four-year-old child was checked over by paramedics.

Shortly afterwards, on the Wickham Market bypass, a car driven by a man in his 50s rolled onto its roof. An ambulance crew arrived on the scene to find the driver uninjured but shaken by the crash.

Rush hour travellers risked skating on thin ice as roads froze in the evening and badly-affected areas became treacherous as the snow compacted and turned icy.

Motoring group, the AA, advised motorists to minimise the use of brakes to reduce the risk of sliding, keep speed down, stay in a higher gear to aid traction, read the road ahead; anticipate hazards and keep well apart from other vehicles.

By 4pm the service had attended around 12,000 breakdowns across the UK and expected to attend around 16,000 breakdowns by the end of the day. The East was among the worst affected areas, along with Glasgow, Newcastle and London.

Hundreds were stranded at Stansted after snow forced airport officials to shut the runway, cancelling more than 20 flights and diverting more than 20 incoming planes.

Police in Essex reported some of the county's roads “virtually impassable” as snow continued to fall heavily in the afternoon.

Officers dealt with nearly 50-weather related incidents by lunchtime, including “anti-social snowballing”.