Weather: Snow leads to accidents, road closures and schools shutting

BRITAIN is on weather alert as people prepare for the worst, with warnings of floods, wind, snow and ice covering vast swathes of the UK.

Lives could be at risk as severe flood warnings are in place for parts of the east coast with residents urged to evacuate from their homes.

On the eastbound carriageway of the A66 at Eston Road / Church Lane, a vehicle has crashed into traffic lights, blocking one lane.

The A170 is blocked both ways due to overturned vehicle at Sutton Bank.

The snow gates have been closed on the A66 at the Durham border where snowfall can be at its heaviest in the region.

The Transporter Bridge is closed in Middlesbrough due to strong winds.

The Northern Echo:

In Newcastle, Environment Agency workers watched the levels of the River Tyne at High Tide at 3.45am this morning. They were positioned on Newcastle Quayside under the Tyne Bridge, where flood barriers have been put in place. 

At Sedgefield, the racecourse has been forced to cancel today’s race meeting because of heavy snowfall.

The Northern Echo:

Durham Police Road Policing Group tweeted the picture above with a warning to motorists: “There has been a covering of snow over most parts of the county this morning so please drive to the conditions. #gancanny #DriveToArrive”.

The Arctic temperatures, snow and strong winds have led at least ten schools across the region to close for the day.

Local authorities reported a range of reasons for the closures, ranging from safety in the school grounds to heating system failures.

The decision to shut a school is made by headteachers, who assesses factors such as safety.

Collierley Primary School, in Dipton, near Stanley, was among the first to announce it would close, due to an absence of heating.

Schools near the North Yorkshire coast and on the North York Moors said the icy conditions had forced them to close. They include Scalby, Castleton and Glaisdale, Lealholm, Danby, Goathland and Fylingdales.

Schools that have closed in Cleveland include Handale and Hummersea, in Loftus, and St Joseph’s Primary, Saltburn.

Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council said opening times at Lingdale and St Peters primary schools, and Freeborough Academy had been put back to 10am.

Elsewhere, the Met Office has issued severe weather warnings across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for combinations of high winds, snow and ice.

The Environment Agency’s seven severe flood warnings – which warn of a danger to life – are in place for Friday lunchtime in coastal areas of Essex and Suffolk in the face of gale-force winds and high tides, while dozens of flood warnings have been imposed as the east coast braces itself for a storm surge.

The warnings take in Clacton to Lee Wick, West Mersea, The Strood and adjacent marshland, and Tidal River Stour at Mistley, including the Quay and The Walls, all in Essex.

Coastal communities in Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex have been told they should be prepared for large waves and possible flooding.

Emergency services were putting an evacuation plan into action in Jaywick, near Clacton-on-Sea, with police officers going door-to-door informing residents of the evacuation, which is beginning at 7am on Friday.

The Ministry of Defence said about 100 soldiers from the Catterick army base have been deployed to Skegness on the Lincolnshire coast where about 3,000 residents have been urged to leave their homes or move upstairs.

Suffolk Police said specific areas of the coast had been identified as being at high risk of flooding – taking in around 1,100 properties which are likely to be evacuated.

At around midday on Friday, the Environment Agency is anticipating severe flooding in Felixstowe Ferry and Bawdsey Quay, Felixstowe Ferry Hamlet and the Deben Marshes, isolated riverside properties on the Deben Estuary, and Tidal Orwell at Ipswich Quay.

At around 9pm there is severe flooding anticipated in Lowestoft seafront and docks, the north bank of Lake Lothing, Oulton Broad near Mutford Lock, Snape, Iken and surrounding marshland, and Southwold and surrounding marshes.

Norfolk Police has said floods are a strong possibility in the region, and the force is anticipating the worst to be in Yarmouth, Walcott, King’s Lynn, Salthouse and Wells, between 7am and 10am, and 8pm to 10pm on Friday.

Mark Sitton-Kent, national duty manager at the Environment Agency, said: “Gale-force winds and high tides are likely to create large and dangerous waves along parts of the east coast on Friday and Saturday.

“These conditions could also cause flooding to coastal roads and could impact properties.

“We understand that powerful tides can be dramatic, but please do not put yourself at unnecessary risk by going to the coast for a thrill or to take pictures. Please do not drive through flood water: just 30cm of flowing water is enough to move your car.

“We are prepared to take action wherever it is needed. We have moved resources and equipment to the coast and the Army is on standby to assist if needed.”

Tidal gates on the east coast have been closed ahead of the high tides.

On Thursday, driving snow and high winds hit large parts of the country, disrupting travel and closing schools.

Heavy snow was lying across Scotland, Northern Ireland and parts of England.

Floods minister Therese Coffey said: “Our absolute priority is protecting lives, homes and businesses from the threat of coastal flooding currently facing the east coast.

“That is why we have soldiers on the ground helping to warn and evacuate people alongside the emergency services and Environment Agency teams, who are putting up temporary defences.

“We’re working closely across government to monitor the situation as it develops and I ask people to check their flood risk, keep a close eye on updates and follow any advice from the Environment Agency and the emergency services.”

There are fears that the weather conditions may also badly affect Tube and train services.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “A combination of staffing and maintenance cuts means that rail and Tube services are running on a knife edge at the best of times.

“Any adverse weather conditions are almost guaranteed to tip us over that edge.”

Temperatures plummeted with readings of minus 2C in parts of the East and South East during the early hours of Friday, according to the Met Office.

Two lorries jack-knifed in the icy conditions causing closures on the A23 in Handcross, West Sussex, and the M20 in Kent.

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