RURAL communities are being warned to brace themselves for snow, freezing temperatures and biting winds as March turns into one of the coldest in a decade.
Up to 10 cm of snow fell on higher ground across the region overnight with difficult driving conditions reported on country roads in Northumberland and Durham.
Flurries of snow and hail are expected to continue until lunchtime with sleet and hail hitting coastal areas before dry weather returns on Sunday.
While the North East is expected to escape the brunt of the severe weather affecting the South East of England and Midlands, the entire region has been issued an amber weather alert by the Met Office until Monday morning.
Severe travel disruption was seen yesterday as the A66 between Brough in Cumbria and Bowes in County Durham was closed in both directions as well as the A686 between Penrith and Alston.
The road between Allendale and Allenheads was also blocked with three foot snow drifts.
A spokesperson for the Met Office said: “It’s unusual weather for March. It’s not unusual to see snow, but it’s the fact that we’re seeing prolonged cold weather over the weekend and into next week. It’s going to feel really cold across the whole region with temperatures of around one degree.”
Paul Hodgson, a barman at The Barrels Ale House in Berwick, said gritters had been out in anticipation of a weekend of bad weather.
He said: “We’ve had snow and hail but nothing laying yet, and the gritters have been out as a precaution. It’s feeling extremely cold.”
Around 1,500 properties in Cumbria are also without power and last night Electricity North West were considering using helicopters to get engineers to affected homes.