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Saturday, 04 July 2015

Tynedale: Arctic blizzards cause havoc, but pupils enjoy days off school

CHAOS reigned in Tynedale this week after more than a foot of snow blanketed the district and brought with it widespread disruption.

Peter Finn

More than 40 nurseries, schools and colleges remained closed on Monday and Tuesday while most major roads were closed for safety reasons or temporarily blocked by accidents.

Businesses closed early to ensure their staff could get home safely, as did every public library in the county on Monday, while mobile services were suspended completely in the west.

Despite gritter teams working around the clock, the volume of snow proved challenging and by 2pm on Monday, the weather station at Redesdale Camp at Otterburn was the snowiest in the UK with 26 cms of lying snow, which equates to more than 10 inches.

Easterly winds caused snow to drift in rural areas, leaving residents to take to the streets to dig themselves out.

The treacherous road conditions caused delays on public transport and made life particularly difficult for bus drivers.

At about 8am on Tuesday, an articulated Go North East bus got stuck at the bottom of Station Road, Prudhoe, after leaving the roundabout on Princess Way.

Manager at Go North East, Tom Dodds, said: “Northumberland County Council has done a tremendous job to help keep bus routes open during the bad weather, but despite everyone's best efforts, buses do sometimes get stuck when it snows.”

Even the gritters themselves did not escape problems after one came off the road while gritting between Stamfordham and Maften.

A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: “This shows the hazards that our drivers face when providing services that contribute to public safety.”

In Hexham, the county council were forced to close Hallstile Bank after local councillors raised concerns over it becoming dangerous for vehicles to use in the slippery conditions.

Councillor Derek Kennedy, who lives nearby said: “The bank was in a terrible state on Saturday morning with cars sliding on to the pavements and it very dangerous for the many pedestrians who use it.

“I witnessed a 4x4 start to go down the bank, get 10 metres and reverse as it was that bad.

“One resident told me a lady was narrowly missed by a car on Monday morning.

“I called the police to ask for closure and by Monday, Coun. Terry Robson and I got the county council to close the road as it was treacherous.”

The road remained closed until Thursday morning and the council is checking its condition daily.

A volunteer in Prudhoe believes hundreds of residents would not make it to work if he did not grit a hill leading out of the town’s biggest housing estate in bad weather.

Peter Finn says he has repeatedly called on highways chiefs to increase gritting at Castlefields during periods of snow and ice, but has spent the past 16 years doing it himself.

Now the 49-year-old, who shovelled snow and grit for two hours on Tuesday morning, says he is at the end of his tether.

He said: “Hundreds of people are trapped in the estate. You drive down one hill to get into Castlefields, back up another steep hill to get out, yet there is very little gritting, if any at all.

“I do it for my family, spreading the contents of the grit bin with my shovel.

“I had to on Tuesday because there had been no gritters since 6pm on Monday night.”

A county council spokesman said: “With the recent and ongoing snowfall, our gritters are operating around the clock to try and keep priority routes open across the county.

“Once these are in a safe condition attention is given to secondary routes including access into residential estates.

“The timing of when this can be done is determined by the need to continuously maintain the strategic routes given the prolonged snow and ice conditions.”


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