Winter takes an icy grip on the region
TOWNS and villages across Suffolk and Essex were brought to a standstill yesterday as the full-force of the winter weather gripped the region.
The heavy snowfalls that forecasters had warned about finally hit Suffolk and residents awoke yesterday to find a thick coating of fresh snow outside.
Essex fared even worse, with around 25cm of snow reported in parts of the Braintree district and nearly 600 schools forced to close.
The combined effect of fresh snow and underlying ice caused major problems across the region – on much of the A12 traffic was down to one lane and many drivers stuck to the inside lane, creating tailbacks and bottlenecks at major junctions, including the A14 interchange at Copdock. As rush-hour traffic peaked, many of the roads into the county town of Ipswich were paralysed.
Roads in Martlesham, Woodbridge, Saxmundham and Hintlesham were also gridlocked under the weight of the traffic.
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Police were warning last night that conditions on the road continued to be precarious and care should be taken.
Inspector Peter Ferrie, of Suffolk police, said: “It is only going to get worse if it keeps snowing, the roads are going to be very busy and very slow. Only travel if you absolutely must.”
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Schools, praised earlier in the week for remaining open during the lighter snow, were forced to close for the day.
A total of 29 schools and children’s centres across Suffolk closed as a result of the weather, with others opening later or closing early.
In Sudbury, the town’s usually bustling market was reduced to just three stalls as traders decided to avoid the wintry conditions.
Dave and Teresa Poulter, who run the The Watch Staff stall, said they set off in darkness and drove through snow drifts from their home near Braintree to take up their pitch.
Mrs Poulter said: “It was a bit wild when we set off and the conditions were quite bad but come what may we always get there in the end whatever the weather. It is a bit strange seeing an empty market but the customers are still getting out.”
While market traders struggled Sue Brotherwood, Sudbury’s town clerk, said the recent appeal for volunteer salt gritters was paying dividends.
“All our roads and pathways are clear,” she said. “We have volunteers across the town who have all responded to the cold snap which is wonderful and shows what strong community spirit we have in the town.”
Sudbury Town Council appealed to residents to take on the voluntary salt-gritting roles to avoid the problems experienced last winter when roads and pavements became treacherous.
She said: “We are getting calls from councils across the country who want to do the same thing. The county council is making sure all our salt bins are filled so we are in a good position to deal with whatever the weather throws at us.”
Hopes of Father Christmas turning up at Pakenham Water Mill, near Bury St Edmunds, were dashed by the weather.
Santa was due to set foot in a boat with a couple of elves who were to row him across the mill pond to meet up with children in the nearby mill house and hand out presents.
However, tomorrow afternoon’s fourth annual event, which was due to run from 3-5pm, was cancelled yesterday.
The market in Ipswich was snowed off just after 8am yesterday and the borough council also announced all football games scheduled to be played on council parks and sports centre pitches this weekend have been cancelled.
“This decision will preserve the pitches and reduce future cancellations,” said a spokesman for Ipswich Borough Council.
The poor weather saw at least three Ipswich garages had run out of petrol or diesel by mid-afternoon yesterday. Asda, at the top end of Norwich Road, said it had closed its petrol garage on Wednesday lunchtime after a delivery failed to arrive because of the snow. It is expecting a delivery sometime today.
BP’s Norwich Road garage was out of petrol as of 4.30pm yesterday, while Shell, in the same road, was out of diesel.
But Tesco Extra at Copdock said deliveries had been getting through and the garage had fuel for at least the next couple of days.
The Retail Motor Industry Independent Petrol Retailers Association (RMI Petrol) said its members across the east of the UK were seeing shortages at the pumps and were at least two or three days behind normal delivery schedules. .
n For further details about today’s school closures, visit www.schoolclosures.suffolk.gov.uk.
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