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Snow brings chaos and school closures

PUBLISHED: 20:19 30 January 2003 | UPDATED: 16:13 24 February 2010

HEAVY snowfall and strong winds have gripped East Anglia causing chaos on the roads and forcing hundreds of schoolchildren to stay at home.

The extreme weather saw six inches of snow falling in some parts of the region as temperatures fell to freezing point.

HEAVY snowfall and strong winds have gripped East Anglia causing chaos on the roads and forcing hundreds of schoolchildren to stay at home.

The extreme weather saw six inches of snow falling in some parts of the region as temperatures fell to freezing point.

More than 40 schools were forced to close their doors and drivers were urged only to make journeys if they had to. The AA reported a surge in breakdown call-outs.

North Suffolk bore the brunt of the blizzard-like conditions, while the east and west of the county also felt the force of the wintry weather. Essex escaped relatively unscathed.

Forecasters said the north-east Suffolk coast suffered worst from the low pressure heading down from the North Sea but predicted the extreme cold spell would come to an end today.

Ken Blowers, EADT weatherman said: "There will be a few further snow showers, but I think we have seen the worst of it. Rising temperatures got rid of most of the snow yesterday and they should keep climbing today and over the weekend. Early next week will be slightly warmer."

Snow fell overnight on Wednesday, and created chaos on the roads in the morning and caused delays on rail services between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

Despite the conditions, there were no major accidents on the county's roads and police said drivers had largely acted "sensibly".

Simon Woodings, regional spokesman for the AA, said the number of call-outs across East Anglia yesterday was double what would normally be expected at this time of year.

The breakdown service was put on amber alert – one off the highest state of alert – after around 1,200 calls from throughout the region.

"It's been an extremely busy day. Normally we would get 500 to 600 calls and on days are traditionally busy we would get about 800 to 1,000," said Mr Woodings.

"The main problems have been faulty electrics. The cold weather puts extra demands on electrics and cars that haven't been maintained and serviced regularly are having problems.

"There has also been trouble with cross winds, particularly for high-sided vehicles, and in some areas some of more remote roads may not have been gritted. We have called out to our fair share of bashes and bumps."

Andrew Guttridge, Suffolk County Council highways manager, said roads had been gritted at 6.30pm on Wednesday evening and 4.30am yesterday morning.

The situation was so severe in the north of the county that snowploughs were used and Mr Guttridge said council officials would be continually monitoring the situation.

They could call upon farmers and contractors for digging and snow-ploughing equipment if needed.

Suffolk police urged drivers to take extra care on the county's roads, not to make journeys if they were not absolutely necessary and to make sure their vehicles were in good working order.

"There has not been a huge increase in accidents from a normal day. It does seem people have been sensible and are driving to the conditions," said a spokesman.

He added the force had received "dozens" of complaints about snowballs. "It's been one of our biggest problems and has kept us very busy throughout the day.

"There has been some foolish behaviour with people throwing snowballs at elderly people and causing damage to property. It could also distract drivers.

"We know children will always throw snowballs but our message to parents and guardians is to make sure they are careful what they are doing. Don't throw snowballs at people you don't know."

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