SEVERE widespread snow is expected across South Yorkshire today – with fears the county could grind to a halt.
Gritters spent yesterday spreading salt over the region’s road network in a bid to prevent snow settling and staff are set to work round the clock over the weekend in a battle to keep the the roads moving.
With forecasters predicting heavy snow and thick accumulations, council chiefs in Sheffield have staff on call 24 hours a day.
Sheffield has an army of 300 workers trying to keep the city’s roads clear over the weekend.
Coun Jack Scott, cabinet member responsible for overseeing the city’s response to wintry weather, said: “Our 25 gritters have been out and we have 300 people working to clear snow – they have been pulled off things like street cleaning to help with the snow.
“Staff have been out since Thursday and our snow desk will be working round the clock.
“We have plenty of grit – enough for 15 days’ worth of weather like this so there is no cause for concern.
“Even though the snow on yesterday came down at the worst possible time – when people were going to work – we kept Sheffield moving... and that was no accident.
“We have a really good Streets Ahead project now. We also act on Met Office advice – if they say there is a risk of snow, our staff will be working around the clock.
“In the past Sheffield did grind to a halt. We now have a well managed Streets Ahead project because of the investment we have put in and people in Sheffield helping us to make it work – for example not abandoning cars in places where they stop gritters getting through.
“Lessons from previous years have been learnt.”
Chris Morris, pperational director of Amey, which runs the council’s Street Ahead project, said: “We worked throughout the night and will continue to do so as long as the snow continues to fall.
“We’ve got snow ploughs fitted to our gritters and are using them on the high grounds where we have seen much greater snow fall than in the city centre.
“We’ve also diverted staff from other areas and they are hard at work clearing footpaths around shopping centres, hospitals and other busy pedestrian areas.”
The council said some people’s rubbish and recycling bins and boxes were not emptied yesterday and asked people to put them out for collection again before 7am on Sunday.
John Lee, a forecaster for MeteoGroup, said ‘persistent snow’ is expected across South Yorkshire.
“The snow will be persistent and accompanied by some strong Easterly winds, which is making it feel bitterly cold,” he said.
“Snow is expected top fall overnight and into Saturday and it is quite possible that high ground will get 15-20cms with lower lying areas slightly less But a good covering is likely everywhere.
“The snow will not disappear quickly, it will be Saturday afternoon before it becomes lighter and patchier but the winds will remain strong. Sunday should be dry but snow flurries cannot be ruled out.
“There could be some snowdrifts on higher ground and blizzard-like conditions.
“The cold and wintry weather will stick around for a few more days – there will be no mild conditions now for the rest of March.” He warned temperatures could drop to -2 degrees Celcius over the weekend.
The Met Office has issued an Amber Weather Warning for South Yorkshire over the weekend, predicting higher areas could see as much as 40cms of snow and 10-15cms in lower lying areas.
A spokesman said: “The public should be aware of the potential for severe disruption to transport and to power supplies.
“A frontal system has come up against unusually cold air across the region. The front will be slow-moving through Friday and overnight into Saturday morning, only slowly weakening.”
Chf Insp Mark James, head of operational and contingency planning for South Yorkshire Police, said the force was geared up to cope with emergencies over the weekend despite the predicted weather.
“The force has implemented precautionary measures ahead of expected heavy snowfall over the next 24 hours,” he said.
“The force is confident that it will be able to keep resources moving – responding to emergency incidents and protecting life will always be a priority.”
n Visit www.sheffield.gov.uk/gritting for more information about Sheffield’s winter maintenance highway service.