Blizzards cause chaos

BLIZZARDS and ice caused traffic chaos in Essex last night and the wintry weather caused the closure of Stansted Airport runway and delayed commuter trains.

BLIZZARDS and ice caused traffic chaos in Essex last night and the wintry weather caused the closure of Stansted Airport runway and delayed commuter trains.

A heavy snow storm in the late afternoon led to people leaving work early and clogging up roads.

Colchester was at a standstill for over two hours, with some motorists abandoning their cars and walking instead.

Journeys that should have taken no more than 15 minutes took over two hours as gridlock set in caused by the sheer volume of traffic on the road and a the combination of snowy and icy roads which created dangerous conditions.

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Some roads were obstructed by broken down cars, but traffic police reported few accidents due to cars travelling slowly.

Dozens of flights were diverted or cancelled at Stansted Airport after the runway was closed because of hazardous weather conditions. Easy Jet and Ryan Air cancelled all flights to and from the airport.

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Commuters using Great Eastern trains were subjected to delays of up to 50 minutes. Some trains were out of order because the icy weather caused their warning horns to break down, a Great Eastern spokeswoman said last night.

Meanwhile Anglia Railways mainline services were running with few delays, although there were some late starts from Norwich due to staff problems getting into work due to the weather.

About 30 schools across the county were closed yesterday due to the snow.

Police praised the majority of motorists who drove safely but said they were dismayed by some people who had been driving dangerously in the hazardous conditions.

Pc Steve Woods of Stanway road policing unit said there had been several minor non-injury crashes.

He said: “We would like to thank most motorists who drove according to the conditions. However, we were dismayed by some who drove inappropriately despite all the warnings.

“They put both themselves and others at risk by failing to even clear all the snow from windscreens and headlights.”

He added that the Highways Agency had done an 'outstanding' job in gritting and clearing the roads.

A team of 65 gritting lorries was out across the county salting the roads.

Essex Ambulance Service said motorists seemed to have heeded warnings about driving conditions.

Spokesman Murray McGregor said contingency plans had worked well.

The freezing conditions saw shops across the region reporting huge sales of candles and tinned foods as people stocked up fearing more bad weather was to follow.

School pupils took advantage of closures and at Hilly Fields in Colchester children took to the slopes on sledges.

The Colchester and East Essex Co-operative Society reported a huge increase in sales of comfort foods and winter goods as shoppers stocked up.

A spokesman said: “Demand for items such as bread, milk and warming foods like soup can go through the roof during periods of particularly cold weather and sales of comfort foods have increased well over the 100% mark in recent days.

“Motorists have also been stocking up on non-consumable items such as de-icer and screen-wash whereas sales of salt, normally used for cooking, have increased between 1,000 and 2,000% to melt driveways and footpaths.

Anglia Railways said there had only been minor delays on the mainline services.

A spokeswoman said: “There were delays on the 4pm from Norwich to Liverpool Street, London because crew were delayed getting to the station but overall services ran as normal.”

nThere were a series of accidents on the county's roads, but none were major. They included a four vehicle collision on the A1124 between Wakes Colne and Aldham

Two separate collisions on the A12, one involving three vehicles near the Cherry Tree flyover in Stanway and the other a single-vehicle accident at Kelvedon

One vehicle caught fire after a collision with another in Queen's Head Road, Boxted - Essex Fire Service put the fire out. There was a one vehicle incident in Berechurch Road, Colchester, and another in Sanders Drive, Colchester

An HGV lorry had to be towed out of trouble after becoming stuck in North Road, Marks Tey.

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