More snow on the way

The Arctic weather is expected to tighten its grip on the East today as a band of heavy snow showers moves south across the country with forecasters predicting one of the coldest winters for a century.

The Arctic weather is expected to tighten its grip on the East today as a band of heavy snow showers moves south across the country with forecasters predicting one of the coldest winters for a century.

Some areas of West and North Norfolk awoke to a covering of flakes yesterday, while more than a dozen schools were closed across the county and flights between Norwich Airport and Scotland suffered some delays.

Temperatures fell as low as minus five across parts of Norfolk on Monday night, with RAF Marham and areas south of Norwich feeling the worst of the chill.

Stephen Davenport, senior meteorologist at MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "This is stretching the limits of short to medium-term forecasting but so entrenched is this cold-weather pattern that it seems only a major upheaval in the atmosphere will bring a return to something milder.

"Should conditions continue in a similar vein then by March we might just be looking back at one of the coldest winters of the last 100 years.”

Forecasters are predicting there could be between 5cm and 15cm of snow today while it will be drier tomorrow and Friday it will stay bitterly cold.

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Last night John Laws, forecaster for the University of East Anglia's Weatherquest, said: “Through the day we will find the snow showers push their way further inland but they will be mainly in the west of the county.”

He said that today the snow showers will be heavier and will accumulate throughout Wednesday leading to another cold night and temperatures down to minus 3 degrees

At King's Lynn, which saw some of the heaviest snow, a ship carrying 1600 tonnes of grit and salt to treat Norfolk's roads was being unloaded, as engineers got ready to do battle with the freeze.

Highways officials said they would do their best to keep the county's main routes open, while some parts of Scotland faced travel chaos after councils ran out of grit.

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “It's all a bit uncertain but it looks as if the west of the county is going to cop a bit overnight so we'll do what we always do which is concentrate on the priority network to keep critical routes open for travel, goods and essential supplies.”

Grit delivered by the Fri Sky, which sailed from Ellesmere Port last Thursday, was being distributed to depots across Norfolk ready for last night's gritting runs.

At the Saddlebow depot, on the outskirts of King's Lynn, area manager John Eastgate said: "It's a worse winter for us this year compared to last year, mainly because its been much more prolonged - we had two spells last years in November and a bit in February that were actually quite short-lived.

"It's very much trying to time it to achieve the maximum effect and give the salt the best chance of working. One of the problems on many roads is that there is not enough traffic to work the salt. Just putting the salt down isn't the total solution.

"It is a difficult job. No one has gritted the road for them first, they are often first on the road in difficult conditions and work 12 hours at a time. It's very, very tiring.

"Thankfully they have always been able to rise to the challenge. A big vote of gratitude should go to them for all their hard work."

Temperatures in Suffolk were expected to drop to -3 or -4C. A county council spokesman said: “There is some snow forecast but it is very difficult at this stage to predict how much and the exact timing.

“The worst of the snow is expected to the west of the County from late evening with accumulations of up to 5cm in the west and 1 - 3cm in the rest of the county.”

Roads were due to be gritted at 7pm, midnight and 3am but Suffolk County Council also revealed last night that it is being forced to ration grit as supplies run low.

In Norfolk, county council officials urged people to ignore claims they could be sued if they cleared pavements outside their homes or businesses and someone slipped.

“Residents and businesses can help improve local footways by sweeping the snow outside their home or business into the gutter before it compacts into ice, and using any nearby grit bins,” a spokesman said.

“If you do decide to do this, you wouldn't be liable if an accident happened outside your property unless it was proved that you didn't take reasonable care.

“For instance you wouldn't be liable if you only partially cleared the snow - given that you have no duty to do it at all - but only if you made the situation worse e.g. by pouring hot water on the snow, which then freezes.”

Drivers struggled with icy conditions. Bard Hill in Salthouse was blocked near the entrance to the Dun Cow pub for much of the morning, after a crash involving a lorry and two cars. A council gritting team was called out to "intensively treat" the road.

A tractor and trailer, a van, a Range Rover and an Audi car were involved in a collision in Ringstead Road, Docking.

Water lorries were among those getting into difficulties on Clockcase Road, at Clenchwarton , near King's Lynn.

Norwich-based breakdown recovery firm RAC dealt with more than 7,500 call outs across the country yesterday. The company, which is part of Aviva, was getting between 1300 and 2500 calls an hour.

EDF Energy said it was not aware of any weather-related power problems in Norfolk. Thousands were left without electricity, some for three days and nights, after heavy snowfalls two weeks ago.

National Grid warned power suppliers to use less gas after seeing a 30 pc rise on normal seasonal demand during the cold snap.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown later denied the country was facing a gas supply crisis. “I think Britain can deal with these problems," he said. “There are always difficulties when we have a long spell of bad weather. But we can cope.'

Manchester Airport and the John Lennon Airport in Liverpool were temporarily closed, while flights between Norwich and Glasgow were delayed.

Supermarkets in some parts of the country saw a surge in panic buying as shoppers stocked up on essential items, as well as anti-freeze, boots and thermal underwear.

Bookmaker Paddy Power has cut the odds on this being the coldest January on record from 5/1 to 7/4.