Snowstorm brings out the best of Northumberland spirit

Over the past week there have been some truly herculean and heroic efforts by emergency services, Northumberland County Council’s workforce and members of the community as they battled together around the clock to keep people safe and the county moving wherever possible.

The snow storm  known as ‘The Beast from the East’ lived up to its namesake. Heavy drifting snow and high winds created  the worst winter conditions the county has seen in over thirty years - with Northumberland even making the national news headlines.

Local farmers and contractors joined council snow plough and gritting teams  working 24/7 against strong winds and severe drifting snow to try and keep roads and communities open. 

While the snow is starting to melt and  daily life is returning in much of the county, these same crews are still out battling to clear and widen rural areas of the county.

Today ploughs are working to clear roads around Cartington and Lorbottle at the back of Thropton - which have experienced snow drifts of up to 11
feet in some areas  - and the roads around Ninebanks and Slaggyford in Allenheads.


Council staff also worked hard using ride on grass cutters with snow plough and grit box attachments as well as shovels to clear main footpaths, car parks and other key routes in and around our towns to make sure people could safely access important services during the bad weather. Over  60 staff came in to work voluntarily over the weekend to help out.

Officers from Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service played a key role in supporting  the community nursing teams helping them to reach vulnerable patients in rural communities with their 4 x 4 vehicles. They also helped staff to get to Northumberland Specialist Emergency Care hospital in Cramlington and delivered medication on behalf of NHS partners.

The fire service also worked hand in hand with the council’s local service teams in order to transport children’s groups across the county who were stranded. This included a group of school children from Teeside who were visiting Burnlaw Centre outside of Whitfield. Local services teams cleared an access route and the fire crews using 4 x 4s transported the children to Hexham so they could travel home safely.

During snowmageddon week the Northumberland County Council registrars were booked to carry out a number of wedding ceremonies in Alnwick, Eshott,  Otterburn and Langley Castle. Not to be deterred they called on the help of friends with 4 wheel drive vehicles and together battled through the elements to ensure the weddings went ahead as planned. One wedding at Otterburn was postponed until the next day when Police closed the road to the venue. However, a snow plough was drafted in the following day  so that guests and the registrars were able to reach the venue and the wedding ceremony went ahead a day late.

Meanwhile, Northumberland Mountain Rescue Service and the North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Service worked solidly for four days providing support for Northumbria Police and the North East Ambulance Service, attending over 40 incidents. The rescue team was called out to the Northumberland stretch of the A68 Carter Bar road and rescued seventeen people stranded in cars. With the help of the council’s  snow ploughs and a local farmer they were escorted to safety in Byrness.

Social media created a great platform for owners of  4 wheel drive vehicles to offer help to residents in need of supplies or medication, and  kind hearted residents around the county have been checking up on elderly or vulnerable neighbours. 

Active Northumberland leisure centres in Alnwick and Berwick were opened as rest centres for over 300 motorists who were stranded when the A1 was closed on Thursday evening. Staff volunteered to work through the night to ensure the weary travellers were warm, safe and well cared for.

Northumberland County Council’s emergency plans were put in place and the Incident Support Room at West Hartford was used to coordinate the council's response to the conditions and to liaise with our partners including Northumbria Police, Northumbria NHS Trust and North East Ambulance Service.

Peter Jackson, Leader of Northumberland County Council said:

“ Northumberland is such a vast county with an enormous road network and hundreds of small and isolated rural communities. There is no doubt about it - the severity of the snow storm has created an enormous challenge and responsibility for everyone involved. 

“ It has been a real team effort to ensure that motorists were kept safe, vulnerable residents were cared for and services delivered and it really has brought out the very best of Northumberland community spirit. 

“ There have been many examples in all parts of the county where staff and residents have put in extraordinary efforts to help out those in need of assistance. Everyone has played a vital and important role and I thank each and every one of you for your efforts.  I do however want to pay a special tribute to those who have been working in sub zero temperatures to clear the snow from our roads, in particular the farmers and sub-contractors who have been supporting our council  teams. They have played an invaluable role in keeping the county moving and have been putting in some mammoth work shifts for many days now. They are still out working hard today, and will be until the roads are clear. ”
 
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