Warnings of ice and fog for Norfolk overnight and tomorrow morning

The Met Office is warning that Norfolk will be subjected to another cold and murky night, with ice and fog forming and lingering into tomorrow morning.

Our gritters will be going out from 6pm tonight (7pm in Norwich) on all usual county gritting routes. We grit around a third of Norfolk’s roads, including all A and B-class roads, and Highways England grit the A11, A47 and A12. However, this means that many more minor routes are not gritted and even gritted routes may not have the same grip as a normal, non-icy road, so allow more time if you’re making any journeys overnight or tomorrow morning and take extra care.

We’ve had subzero temperatures for a number of nights on the trot now, and the days haven’t been exactly balmy, so please remember to check on any older or vulnerable people in your life who may struggle during colder weather. This one-minute video suggests some simple things you can do to help keep someone who is vulnerable safe and well this winter.

Friday and Saturday looking wintry, Sunday temperatures on the up

With a respite from widespread rain, sleet and snow due, the gritters are out on all county gritting routes now (from 2pm) ahead of another cold, blustery and wintry evening and night.

Further sleet and snow showers are possible between now and tomorrow morning, particularly in the north and east of the county where one to two centimetres of snow may settle (most likely after 7pm tonight). There will also be clear spells and it will remain windy, so we’re in for a very cold night, with road surface temperatures falling to -3 or 4°C in some areas.

The gritters will be going out again at 3am ahead of another cold day tomorrow and more sleet and snow showers may fall, with the risk greatest near the coast.

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Wintry weather update

The Met Office have recently updated their severe weather warnings for Norfolk to include ones for ice and strong winds in Norfolk tomorrow.

At present, we know most parts of Norfolk are going to get quite a bit of rain this afternoon. What isn’t as clear is whether some of it may fall as sleet or snow – if this does happen, it’s more likely during the early evening and there is a chance the snow could settle, although probably not in large amounts (but don’t hold me to this, it’s all a bit up in the air). Temperatures are then likely to fall away to around or below freezing this evening, which means wet road surfaces will freeze.

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Twas the night before winter…

Welcome to the Norfolk Winter blog, which we’ll once again be updating regularly with information that to help you and those around you stay healthy, happy and safe during the colder months.

It seemed an apt day to start blogging again, sandwiched as we are between the coldest night so far this season last night (temperatures got down to around minus five degrees celsius in some places I believe) and 1st December tomorrow, which a lot of people think of as the official start of winter.

Remember, you can stay up to date with when our gritters are going out on social media – we tweet a daily update using the #norfolkwinter hashtag and also let you know what our gritters are doing every day on our Norfolk Facebook page. If you’re not on Facebook or Twitter, you can see our latest #norfolkwinter tagged tweets, including gritting updates, on the homepage of this blog, www.norfolkwinter.com.

You might have seen or heard reports of the Met Office predicting a colder winter than normal – this needs to be taken with some caution as they say themselves the accuracy of forecasting the weather beyond five days is very difficult. At present, the Met Office is saying that the end of December is likely to be colder than average across the UK, but they can’t provide any more localised information than that. 

Looking forward to giving you lots of useful advice and information over the next few months – we’ll try our best to make this winter as easy as possible for everyone.

Swap your old, worn slippers for a new pair in Norwich this Friday

Our next slipper swap event is coming up this Friday, where people can swap their old, worn slippers for a new, slip-resistant pair.

The events, which we run with Age UK, are particularly aimed at those people who might be at risk of falling and injuring themselves. For older people in particular, a fall can mean broken bones and a stay in hospital. Good, well-fitting slippers won’t entirely prevent someone from falling of course, but old slippers without much grip could contribute to a fall.

Friday’s slipper swap event will take place between 10am and midday and is at the Phoenix Centre on Mile Cross Road in Norwich, NR3 2LD. People who go can also find out about the support and some of the services that are available designed to keep people cope through the winter.

Another slipper swap is scheduled for Thursday, 17 December from 11.30am to 1.30pm at Witard Road Baptist Church, Witard Road, Norwich, NR7 9XD.

There’s more information and advice about staying warm and well through the winter on our website too. More slipper swap events are due to take place after Christmas and the details will go up here when they’re confirmed.

 

Alert to drivers as wintry weather sets in

With the first taste of ‘real’ winter being forecast for the next few days, Norfolk County Council’s salt stocks for treating roads are a healthy 15,000 tonnes – enough for up to 50 standard gritting runs.

So far this winter a see-saw pattern of often windy weather has kept the number of gritting runs down, with only 20 by mid January. Last winter (2013-14) was even milder – but forecasters now expect cold weather to set in over the weekend and through much of next week, with a risk of sleet and snow showers.

Nick Tupper, Norfolk County Council’s Highways Maintenance Manager, said drivers could well find themselves facing road conditions they had not encountered for nearly two years. He urged them to allow more time and take extra care.

“Even roads on the treated network can become icy. We try to get out early and have the roads salted before they can freeze, but weather conditions can make the timing of gritting runs very difficult. It’s pointless to put down salt during heavy rain, but roads can freeze quickly when skies clear. If gritters go out as soon as the rain stops, it will take up to three hours to complete the run.

“There’s always the chance that run-off from fields will freeze, even on treated roads, and of course many minor roads – over 60% of the network in fact – are not on the priority gritting routes. During cold snaps there’s always the chance that a shady corner will stay icy, and wet roads can quickly turn to black ice in the evening.

“It’s also a myth that snow won’t settle on treated roads. Heavy snow falling on a salted road causes a rapid drop in road surface temperature. Salt then becomes less effective at melting the snow and ice, so even treated roads can become snow covered. In time treated roads will clear down to the asphalt again, but it often takes the action of traffic – especially heavy vehicles – to speed up the process.”

The gritters have already been out tonight on all county gritting routes (you can find out which roads are on our gritting routes here) and will go out again at 4am and tomorrow afternoon.

Norfolk County Council gritting key facts 2014/15

• Total length of county highway network: 5,965
• Length of priority (1&2) gritting routes: 2,083 (37%)
• Number of gritting routes: 48
• Time taken for full treatment: 3 hours
• Average cost per action: £40,000 (including fixed costs).

• The Highways Agency treats the A11, A12, A47 trunk roads (143 miles)

In prolonged severe wintry weather, priority 3 roads are treated as resources allow. In snow, the council can call upon 90 farmers to snow plough local roads.

In addition there are over 1,800 grit bins around the county that have been filled by the County Council.

Salt supply
Norfolk County Council has a long-term contract with Salt Union to supply salt and maintain supplies above a minimum level.

At the start of the season the stocks in Norfolk are 17,180 tonnes, held in seven salt domes and one 5,000 tonne strategic reserve (Swaffham). This is sufficient for over 50 actions (at 15 grammes per square metre). There is a further 3,000 reserve held at Ellesmere Port, Lancs.

Salt Union are under contract to maintain the in-county stocks above a minimum level of 7,665 tonnes – about 24 actions.

Last winter
The 2013/14 winter was exceptionally mild but the wettest for over 100 years.  There were 65 gritting actions, using 15,679 tonnes of salt. The total cost (including fixed costs) was £3.5m. The average cost per action was almost £54,000.

The severe 2012/13 winter
In contrast, 2012/13 was a record winter for gritting actions. There were 159 altogether, using over 41,000 tonnes of salt between 27 October and 4 April.

Hats on for Bobble Day

Snow and freezing temperatures have made it difficult for all of us this winter and the Met Office is predicting that there may be the return of a little more snow and the odd minus number popping up on thermometers during the week.

Bobble Day is coming on Friday. Get your bobbles (which come in a range of colours) for a suggested donation of just £1. Credit: Howard Lake.

Bobble Day is coming on Friday. Get your bobbles (which come in a range of colours) for a suggested donation of just £1. Credit: Howard Lake.

Cold weather can make life particularly unpleasant, and even dangerous, for Norfolk’s vulnerable older people. However, on Friday everyone can help raise awareness and money to help make sure no one goes cold. Age UK Norfolk will explain exactly what it’s all about.

As we get older, our bodies respond differently to the cold – increasing the likelihood of a heart attack, stroke and pneumonia.

26,000 people die every year in the UK because of the effects of the cold weather and nine in 10 of those are older people. Last winter over 2,000 older people died due to the cold in the east of England alone.

Clearly it just isn’t right that so many older people suffer as badly as this purely because they don’t have the kind of heating that many of us simply take for granted.

This year at Age UK Norfolk, a warming winter fundraiser gives you the chance to help people who can’t afford to help themselves.

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