The big freeze could be over - snow will begin to thaw this weekend
PUBLISHED: 18:12 02 March 2018 | UPDATED: 08:39 03 March 2018
Archant Norfolk 2018
The worst seems to be over as a long thaw sets in.
A final light flurry of snow on Friday night looks likely to bring an end to a week of blizzards and snow drifts, with temperatures creeping above freezing for the first time in days.
But as the snow melts away, there are warnings flood waters could rise.
Disruption since Tuesday has been widespread, with arterial routes shut off, shops running low on supplies, and motorists stranded.
The A140 between Pulham and Long Stratton was blocked until 9am on Friday, with farmers, businesses and snow ploughs battling to clear it.
Heroic efforts have been made by emergency services and NHS staff to keep roads and hospitals open, and conditions will remain treacherous through the weekend.
Dan Holley, from Norwich-based forecaster Weatherquest, said a few extra centimetres of snow on Friday night will give way to warmer weather and drizzle.
“Given the fact snow is compacting in places and is effectively sheets of ice, an extra layer of snow could make things even more slippery,” he said.
“The winds will die down on Friday evening so the risk of drifting snow will be reduced quite a lot, so where roads have been cleared hopefully they will stay that way.
“Saturday will be a cloudy, cold and damp day. There will be some patchy, light snow in the morning which will turn to rain where the cloud is thickest.
“Temperature will be above freezing by the afternoon at two to three degrees, maybe four further north. Sunday looks fairly similar with a misty, cloudy day with some fog in places. There will be some patchy rain but nothing massively heavy.
“That falling on the ice will make it slightly slippery, but temperatures will be up to five to six locally, and might scrape to seven degrees by Monday.”
Gritter trucks and snowploughs will continue the unrelenting work to clear the roads on Saturday morning.
The 49 gritter trucks have been working with more than 60 local farmers to clear snowdrifts, help motorists stuck in the snow and trying to make roads safe to use.
Nearly all A and B roads in the west, north and east of the county and in Norwich are now cleared of snowdrifts and open to traffic. However conditions on several major roads in south Norfolk and many minor roads throughout Norfolk remain very difficult and some are impassable.
Further gritting and ploughing runs were planned from 1am, and farmers and excavators were expected to join them again from early Saturday morning.
Nick Tupper, Norfolk County Council’s Assistant Director for Highways, said attention will now turn to minor roads.
“Hundreds of our highways staff, our network of farmers and our sub-contractors have worked tremendously hard over the last few days in really testing conditions,” he said. “Thank you to all of them for going the extra mile to clear roads and help members of the public in difficulty.
“Depending on what the conditions are like [on Saturday], we may be able to get ploughs out on some of the minor roads. However we could have some more snow overnight tonight [Friday] so it’s hard to say with any certainty what we’ll be faced with. Whatever the weather, we’ll continue to try our best to get roads open as quickly as we can.”
Officers from Norfolk Constabulary have been kept equally busy - called to 1,800 incidents due to the bad weather since Tuesday.
Chief Inspector Sonia Humphreys warned road conditions in parts of the county remain dangerous and urged people to only travel if it is essential.
“The advice to motorists remains the same, please drive to the road conditions and only make the journeys that you absolutely have to,” she said. “We know after several days of disruption that many people may need to make essential journeys but if you must travel, please consider sharing lifts with friends and neighbours to put less pressure on the road networks.”
As the snow recedes, the risk of flooding is heightened and the Environment Agency issued a flood alert on Friday for the coast from Hunstanton to north of King’s Lynn.
Sarah Cook, Environment Agency national flood duty manager, said: “Into the weekend, strong winds and large waves will combine with high tides and could cause some minor flooding along the north east and south west coastlines.
“A steady thaw would mean rivers, streams and the ground would be able to absorb the extra water without increasing the risk of river or surface-water flooding.”