Operation blizzard comes to Suffolk

SUFFOLK'S Operation Blizzard was in full swing today after Siberian winds swept in snowstorms … and the worst big freeze in a generation.As weather experts said the conditions were right for the winter of 2008/9 to replicate the savage winters of 1947 and 1963, all the county's gritting teams and emergency services were in action.

SUFFOLK'S Operation Blizzard was in full swing today after Siberian winds swept in snowstorms … and the worst big freeze in a generation.

As weather experts said the conditions were right for the winter of 2008/9 to replicate the savage winters of 1947 and 1963, all the county's gritting teams and emergency services were in action.

Police, fire and paramedic crews were all busy - and council teams were asking residents to keep a watch on any elderly neighbours who might be vulnerable.

With more serious weather predicted for days to come, Suffolk had “battened down the hatches” over the weekend - as the first flurries of snow began to fall and the temperature dipped dramatically.

Heavy snow tore into the county after winds blowing from Russia crossed the North Sea and picked up moisture along the way.

But weather forecasters had spotted the danger and issued repeated severe weather warnings.

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They issued a series of bulletins, with the government's Met Office saying it was fearful of a “severe weather event” for the region.

While snow had been forecast for the early hours of this morning, another belt of snow was also heading this way and was expected to cause further problems during this afternoon and evening.

Suffolk county council gritters have been on alert all night - they gritted roads several times yesterday in preparation for the expected snow and were due to continue throughout the day.

As Suffolk's response to heavy snow was expected to be tested for the first time in a decade and a half, emergency services were on alert to tackle any problems.

A police spokesman said they were not putting on extra patrols, but would monitor the situation and take any action necessary.

A spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service said the trust had staff on standby if the weather caused problems, including the use of 4x4 vehicles to get to locations cut off by snow.

He added that the service was keeping a close watch on the weather forecasts.

The county council has 39 gritters patrolling Suffolk's roads - and has contracts with 200 farmers to keep roads clear near their properties.

It is up to school headteachers to decide whether to open their buildings or not. Information was being collected and passed to the media - full information of schools that are closed can be found on our website www.eveningstar.co.uk

As the county braced itself for the winter onslaught, Star weatherman Ken Blowers warned that the conditions were uncannily similar to those in the notoriously cold winters of 1947 and 1963.

In both of those years a high pressure system over Greenland sucked in a cold blast from Russia - and that is what we are facing now.

He said: “We know this weather is going to persist all week and there are many meteorologists who have looked ahead and reckon it will stay like this for the whole of February.

“We haven't had a really cold, snowy winter for many years. Already this is the coldest winter for 13 years, this could turn it into something even worse.”

SUFFOLK has not had a serious snowfall since early 1995 when some rural side roads were blocked by drifts.

But that lasted only a few days and did not cause major problems for many residents.

The last serious disruption caused by snow came in January 1987 when drifting snow cut off the Shotley peninsula for almost a week.

On that occasion Evening Star photographer David Kindred and reporter Dave Lennard travelled to Shotley on a fishing boat that had been sent up the Orwell to pick up medicine and vital supplies of milk, bread . . . and our newspaper!

David Kindred said: “We left the New Cut at Ipswich at about noon and it was supposed to be relatively straightforward, but it was incredibly rough when we got into the river mouth off Harwich.

“We eventually landed at Shotley and took in the supplies - and the police launch was supposed to pick us up and take us back to Ipswich.”

That was diverted and the intrepid duo had to take the ferry to Felixstowe - only to find that the jetty at the harbour there was also cut off by snow - and had to return to Shotley via Harwich.

“Eventually the police launch did pick us up and got us back to Ipswich - but we didn't get back until about 10pm. We should have been back by early afternoon!” David recalled.

BRITAIN'S two worst winters since the second world war were in 1947 and 1963.

In 1947 a country still in the grip of post-war austerity suffered one of the coldest spells on record. It started snowing on January 22 and continued to snow somewhere in Britain every day until March 14.

The thaw started in the south of England on March 10 and was so rapid that the snow that had accumulated over the previous six weeks thawed rapidly, causing serious flooding.

For a country teetering on the edge of bankruptcy following the war, the winter of 1947 was a disaster.

Cold weather hit Britain on Boxing Day 1962, and snow remained on the ground until March. There was not as much snow in Britain as there had been in 1947, but temperatures were much lower and the cold spell lasted much longer.

Met Office warning:

THERE is a High Risk of a Severe Weather event affecting the region on Monday. Periods of snow will continue to extend northwestwards through the day, with heavy falls likely in places. Although marked variations will occur from place to place, 5-10cm is likely in many areas with as much as 20-30cm possible. Drifting will occur in fresh to strong easterly winds. This could cause disruption to travel networks.

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