Weather: Region braced for more snow + picture gallery

THE bitter winter weather is set to worsen over coming days but there is an air of defiance as East Anglia prepares to battle on regardless.

Schools in the region were last night praised by education bosses for remaining open during the wintry condition - unlike last year when many across Suffolk and Norfolk closed during poor weather.

Gritters will be out in force tonight and the region’s ambulance service is taking delivery of 20 extra off-road vehicles to help reach patients in difficult rural locations.

Oskan Edwardson, from the East of England Ambulance Service, said: “We have put the lessons we learnt from last winter to good use to improve our readiness to respond to those who are seriously ill or in life-threatening situations, whatever the weather.

“However, we cannot stress enough that people who do not need an emergency ambulance must be prepared to be patient, especially if the road conditions are significantly difficult and some people may receive advice over the telephone, or be directed to other local NHS services.”

Forecasters are warning that the heaviest of the snow fall is expected tonight, and Jim Bacon, of WeatherQuest, said: “It is going to be cold, raw cold.

“Tomorrow we will see fresh, easterly winds and icy roads. Temperatures will remain around freezing over the next fee days, it’s very unlikely to get more than 1 or 2C above freezing. It is definitely time to wrap up warm.”

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Mr Bacon said the afternoons would be brighter but the hazy sunshine will “do little to clear the snow and ice.”

The service was yesterday inundated with calls from drivers desperately working out how they are going to get from A to B.

Police yesterday dealt with nearly 60 calls relating to the weather and a high proportion were complaints about youngsters hurling snowballs at vehicles and homes.

Salt is being spread twice a day along the 38 key routes in Suffolk to keep the roads moving and the county council is confident their supplies will get them through the winter.

A spokesman said: “Suffolk County Council stockpiled approximately 20,000 tonnes of salt at the start of the season - that’s 3,000 more tonnes than last year. We are confident that we have sufficient supplies to last us through the current wintry conditions and will be restocking as necessary.”

This year, the council is also treating approach roads to schools to ensure as many as possible can open during the adverse weather.

This is part of a new plan drawn up by education bosses following last winter’s widespread closures, and so far it has proved successful.

Nine schools across Suffolk were closed today after snow affected the heating systems.

Graham Newman, portfolio holder for education at Suffolk County Council, said: “If a school closes because of the weather, the effect rolls right through society.

“If a mum who works at the doctors has to take the day off to stay at home with her children, then appointments have to be cancelled and if the dockers at Felixstowe have to take a day off then they don’t get paid. We want to minimise that disruption.

“We did a great deal of work after last years bad weather to make sure, for instance, that gritting lorries pass by schools. Where possible, we have placed grit bins at schools so the caretaker can shovel that out.

“We also sent out guidance to all schools explaining as long as you are clearing the snow in good faith, then you won’t be held responsible for an accident. We have advised that if teachers can’t get in, then schools can hold supervised sessions in the hall, at least then the children are safe.”