Police have urged motorists to be extra vigilant while out on the roads over the New Year with the continuing cold snap forecast to bring heavy snow showers today and tomorrow.
Conditions were particularly treacherous yesterday morning after sleet showers during the previous evening turned to ice as the temperature dipped below freezing overnight, making journeys by road and on foot hazardous.
However the full fleet of 25 council gritters plus small tractor units is working flat out to try to keep roads and pavements clear. The men have been hampered by showers which wash off the salt after it is put down.
A spokesman for Northern Constabulary urged motorists to use headlights during daylight hours and allow for increased stopping distances to limit the possibility of colliding with other vehicles.
“The affected roads may have areas of black ice which will dramatically reduce the vehicle’s ability to stop, should the vehicle in front have to stop suddenly,” he said.
“It is anticipated that the wintry weather will continue over the New Year period, therefore with the assistance of all road users we can reduce the number of accidents and ensure that public safety is maintained.”
The warning came after numerous cars were caught out by the weather this week, and spun off the road in icy conditions.
This week’s forecast shows snow showers coming tonight with winds from the north leading to bitterly cold temperatures and persistent frost in some places. Tomorrow is expected to bring strengthening north-easterly winds, with a chance of longer periods of sleet or snow. Forecasters say the cold spell will continue into next week.
Network engineer Neil Robertson, of the council’s infrastructure department, said strenuous efforts had been made to keep snow and ice off both the main and side roads.
Although very heavy snow showers had yet to materialise as we went to press, the freezing temperature has made roads dangerously slippy at times.
Mr Robertson said work was being hampered by cold showers which were washing a lot of the salt away before freezing over and leaving a fresh layer of ice.
He said road sensors were showing increasingly low temperatures, but insisted work was being done to combat the problem.
“The boys are out treating every road first thing in the morning. They have been working flat out but we’ve got a lot of slushy showers washing it off as fast as we can put it down,” he said.
Smaller tractor units have also been working in the town to keep pavements clear and maintain safety for pedestrians.
“We’ve got 25 gritters running at the moment, plus the pavement gritters. The first of the gritters are out at 6am doing the main roads before we go on to the secondary roads.”
The morning stint complete, the gritters then refill in time for an afternoon shift which sees a fresh layer of grit being put down from 3pm onwards.
“The forecast has predicted snow showers that really haven’t materialised yet, but if we get a right heap of snow on top of these freezing conditions it’s going to be very difficult indeed.”