LARGE parts of the North East ground to a halt as heavy snow greeted the New Year - with warnings of more bad weather to come.
Scores of roads in rural Northumberland and County Durham were rendered impassible by heavy snow yesterday and highways officers are warning of huge problems when people return to work after the Christmas break on Monday.
Supplies of grit in hundreds of locations across Northumberland were running low last night as the long spell of cold weather stretched the county’s resources.
Yesterday’s snow also saw Newcastle Airport closed for more than seven hours, delaying several flights and causing others to be diverted.
People living in north Northumberland – where around eight inches of snow fell overnight – described the conditions as the worst in almost a decade.
One resident said: “It is not a pretty sight here. It is the worst we have had for a while, for a lot of years.
“The last time there would be as much snow as this would be 2001.”
Don Brownlow, who lives on a farm at Norham, near Berwick, drove home from the New Year celebrations at Allendale in the early hours of yesterday in blizzards and hazardous conditions on the A1.
He said: “It has been the worst I think since 2001 – the big freeze, in terms of the length and depth.”
In Northumberland, supplies in 800 grits bins placed at housing estates and important locations across the county started to run low as restocking them would take resources that were already stretched.
Northumberland County Council has worked for 16 consecutive days on snow and ice conditions and staff are expecting at least another 10 days on the roads.
Northern area highways manager Richard Hayes said: “In a normal winter we usually get a reprieve after six or seven days to recuperate.
“The worst part has been south of the Tyne Valley, around Allendale, with more drifting snow than the rest of the county. Up to Wednesday we got the north and east back to normal conditions, with grass verges reappearing, then suddenly on Thursday morning the showers put us back. It will be a very difficult morning on Monday and we will have difficult decisions on how to deal with emergencies.”
While the council worked on the main roads, farmers in rural locations volunteered to help with ploughing and gritting in more out-of-the-way places.
A search and rescue team was called out to the same road twice in only a few hours as motorists got trapped in treacherous wintry conditions.
At 1.30am Cumbria Police contacted the Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team and asked for assistance to reach stranded motorists on the B6276 Middleton-in-Teesdale to Brough road.
In Newcastle, environmental services manager Andrew Bowron described the conditions as some of the worst seen in his 20-year career.
Head of environmental services Rob Nichols said: “We’ve gritted roads now on 19 consecutive evenings. We would urge people to drive to conditions and plan any journey, and if they’re out on foot they dress appropriately with appropriate footwear which is particularly important.
“This has been building and building across the region.”
Newcastle Airport closed from 5.30am until 12.45pm. One flight set off from Dubai late because Newcastle airport was unable to let it land, and it had to circle for several minutes waiting for a space. Another due to leave Newcastle at 9.55am for Barcelona was delayed until 4.55pm.
Most major roads in the region remained open, though the A66 in County Durham was closed. Many minor roads were closed.