Weather: Cold snap continues to grip region

SUFFOLK and Essex look set to be gripped by the freezing weather for at least another 24 hours – although hope could be on the horizon.

Days of plummeting temperatures have forced people to wrap up warm across the region, with snowfall and ice creating treacherous conditions.

The mercury has dropped as low as -5C in places and today was no exception, with Essex experiencing the worst of the conditions.

Forecasters said more snowfall could be on the way tomorrow - although things could start to improve by the weekend.

Emma Sharples, from Norwich based Weatherquest, said the worst conditions were likely to be around the evening rush hour.

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“It may be enough to give 3-5cms of snow cover,” she said. “It will come after dark when temperatures are at freezing or below. It’s not a massive amount but the timing is not the best. It will be bitterly cold.

“However as we move towards the weekend things are likely to slowly improve. We will lose the wind that’s making things feel extremely cold.

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“There will be a front moving in from the west that will introduce slightly less colder conditions - maybe around 2C. This could lead to sleety snow or even rain. But its going to be a slow improvement.”

Health chiefs said the region’s hospitals were coping well with the freeze - although icy pavements were causing a few more slips and falls.

A spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said they had seen an increase in people admitted with weather related injuries.

She said there were also more people coming in with respiratory problems and chest pains.

“However the hospital is coping very well,” she said. “We would urge people to be careful in these conditions.”

A spokesman for West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds said: “Our A&E department has been busy over the past few days, with people coming in for a variety of reasons, including injuries caused by slipping on ice.

“We would urge everyone to help us to help them by thinking carefully about the best place to go for treatment this winter. A range of advice for minor conditions is available from your pharmacist or GP, or alternatively you can contact NHS Direct at any time of the day or night.

“We never turn patients away, but would urge people to use their A&E unit responsibly and only come in if it is absolutely necessary.”

Nick Coveney, director of nursing at the James Pagent University Hospital, said there had been no dramatic increase in admissions.

“The cold snap has not yet led to significant winter pressures,” he said.

The hospital and NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney are reminding anyone who needs medical treatment for minor illness, such as cold and flu like symptoms, not to automatically go to A&E but consider all the other options available, such as the minor injuries units at Beccles Hospital and the Patrick Stead Hospital in Halesworth.

The East of England Ambulance Service are urging people to check on vulnerable relatives, friends and neighbours during the cold spell.

Essex Police renewed its road safety advice to motorists as the snow and ice continued to have an adverse effect on travel conditions in the county.

The M25 suffered congestion with slow moving traffic and delays, especially around the Dartford Crossing.

A spokesman said: “Motorists are reminded that before they begin their journey they should ensure their vehicle has sufficient fuel, bearing in mind that fuel consumption will increase, that all windows are cleared, giving good, all round visibility, they have appropriate clothing and some food and drink, and a fully charged mobile phone.

“They should adjust their speed and driving to the prevailing conditions, leaving greater distance between vehicles, and avoiding sudden braking and harsh steering.”

In Suffolk there have been a little under 20 accidents - a slight increase on yesterday which a spokesman put down to the icy roads.

He warned motorists to remain cautious and drive correctly for the conditions.

All schools in Suffolk remained open today but more than 300 were closed in Essex.

A spokeswoman at Stansted Airport said it was “business as usual” and - despite having a couple of cancellations because of the closure of Edinburgh Airport - they had been taking diverted flights from Gatwick Airport and London City Airport.

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