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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Snow, ice and strong winds all potentially in the mix tomorrow

In my earlier update I let you know that we’ll be gritting all usual gritting routes in the county this evening, with additional runs later tonight and in the early hours of tomorrow morning if needed.

Our forecaster has updated us this afternoon to say they don’t expect much in the way of snow in Norfolk tonight now, rain and sleet is more likely and they think this will clear the county by around 8pm. However, snow still cannot be ruled out and freezing temperatures are forecast just about everywhere in Norfolk from 7/8pm onwards so ice is likely to be a problem on roads overnight and into tomorrow morning, especially as most roads will be wet from the rain and wintry showers this afternoon.

We’ve also had an update that we may get some snow tomorrow morning, most likely between around 7 and 9am – unfortunately just when many of you will be leaving for work or school. This is likely to be wet snow apparently, so the chances of it settling are lower, but with snow and ice both potentially in the mix, any journeys made in the morning will almost certainly be more difficult than usual.

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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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Get prepared ahead of predicted wintry and stormy weather in Norfolk

We’re advising everyone to keep a close eye on the weather forecast over the next few days and be ready to react, as stormy and wintry weather is expected to arrive in the county from tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon.

The Met Office is warning that the east of England including most parts of Norfolk could get some snow between tomorrow and Saturday, with a chance of it settling and causing disruption to travel.

In addition to the prospect of snow, strong winds and low temperatures are also forecast over the next few days, with wind chill making it feel even colder. Road surface temperatures are due to dip below freezing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night and therefore any rain or wintry showers that fall are likely to freeze, which could lead to icy roads, pavements and cycle paths and make journeys treacherous.norfolk-winter-launch-060

Norfolk County Council’s gritting teams are going out at 7pm tonight (Wednesday) on all
usual county gritting routes and are standing by to go out again at 3am if necessary as road surface temperatures are due to fall to around freezing across Norfolk overnight, with rain and sleet likely tomorrow. The gritters are ready to go out as often as required over the next few days.

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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.

The wInterview: Driving in a winter wonderland – part two

We promised you the second half of our ‘Driving in a winter wonderland’ wInterview…and here it is.

A van causing snow to fly up off the road in Norwich last winter. Credit: PGBrown1987

A van causing snow to fly up off the road in Norwich last winter. Credit: PGBrown1987

In the second half of our chat, Iain Temperton, Manager of Casualty Reduction, Education and Development at Norfolk County Council, tells us how you can avoid skidding, how much sooner you should be braking and why snow and ice are far from the only weather conditions that could cause road accidents this winter.

And once again, you can listen to this wInterview by using the audio players at the bottom of this blog post.

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The wInterview: Driving in a winter wonderland – part one

The snow was flying past our windows at Norfolk Winter HQ yesterday. While we rather like the thought of a Norfolk landscape covered in snow, with it comes difficult driving conditions and the risk of more road accidents.

A beautiful wintry scene near Tharston in south Norfolk, from a previous year. But pretty snow scenes mean difficult driving conditions.

A beautiful wintry scene near Tharston in south Norfolk, from a previous year. But pretty snow scenes mean difficult driving conditions.

But there are ways to minimise that risk. In the first of two wInterviews, Iain Temperton, Manager of Casualty Reduction, Education and Development at Norfolk County Council, told us how you can be a safer and more confident driver in ice and snow before you before you even take your handbrake off. You can also listen to this wInterview by using the audio players at the bottom of this blog post.

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