Motorists warned to stay at home as highways teams battle to clear Harrogate roads of 'treacherous' snow and ice
Residents across the Harrogate district have been urged to stay at home this evening and into Friday as highways teams battle to clear roads of snow and ice.
The message from North Yorkshire County Council highways chiefs is for people to stay at home wherever possible as treacherous travelling conditions pose a threat to safety.
Only essential journeys are permitted during the current lockdown, but even those are likely to pose a danger, with conditions worsening every passing hour.
Snow has been falling across many parts of the county for much of the day leading to blocked roads, hazardous stretches of highway, flooding, stuck vehicles and collisions due to slippery surfaces.
Karl Battersby, North Yorkshire’s director for Business and Environmental Services which includes highways, has warned the dangerous conditions are only going to get worse as the weather is expected to turn very cold this evening with clearing skies leading to widespread frost and sub-zero road temperatures turning snow and slush into ice.
He said Harrogate had witnessed significant snowfall and that gritting was continuing with conditions still challenging. Highways teams have assisted with stuck vehicles on A59 and farming contractors where needed.
He said: “Our gritting teams, snow ploughs, farmer contractors and highways officers have been working round the clock dealing with very challenging conditions. People should not be travelling during the Covid-19 lockdown unless absolutely essential and now we are appealing to everybody not to go out and not to drive unless they have to due to the effects of wintry weather.
“The conditions on the roads are extremely challenging and we want to avoid accidents and people getting stuck at all costs, especially during a pandemic, as this puts travellers as well as highways staff and the emergency services at great risk.
“However, with less traffic on the road gritting becomes less effective, so those who have no choice but to venture forth must do so with great caution.”
Roads Policing Group Inspector Dave Barf of North Yorkshire Police said: "We've already dealt with reports of more than 50 crashes today. And with treacherous conditions continuing, that number is likely to rise.
"We have units on patrol throughout the county to help motorists. But conditions are extremely poor in parts of the county.
"Our message to drivers is very simple - you must not risk your own safety and the safety of over people by travelling unless your journey is absolutely essential."
People taking their daily exercise during the pandemic are also urged to take extra care while the winter weather is so severe.
It’s more important than ever that everybody plays their part to protect the NHS and one of the biggest risks from wintry weather is falling, particularly among older adults.
Marie-Ann Jackson, the County Council’s head of Stronger Communities said: “To help those who are at risk from falls to avoid leaving the house during spells of wintry weather we’re urging North Yorkshire residents to please keep checking on people in their community who might need a hand with things like shopping and other essentials.
"You can find advice about how to help safely at www.northyorks.gov.uk/helpingduringcovid“We are encouraging people to contact family, friends, neighbours or groups they belong to if they need help and can’t get out and about. North Yorkshire residents without those local networks can contact our customer service centre on 01609 780780 seven days a week 8am to 5.30pm.
"People can also complete an online form to let us know what help they need, which can be found at www.northyorks.gov.uk/covidhelp. We are currently dealing with a high number of phone calls, so please use this form if you can.”
With icy conditions, sleet and snow set to continue later this week and some areas expected to see sub-zero temperatures prevail into this weekend and beyond, North Yorkshire County Council continues to run its winter highways service at full throttle.
Gritting crews have been on hand to treat the roads, with some runs starting at 4am, and road users.
Karl Battersby said: “I would like to thank residents for their cooperation while we do our best to tackle the hazardous conditions.
“Our gritting teams are well prepared to tackle wintry weather on the county’s 5,800 miles of roads. The £7m winter maintenance budget sees 54% of the roads gritted on one of England’s largest and in places most remote road networks.
“With traffic flow much lower due to lockdown restrictions, salt has a limited effect and it takes longer for conditions to improve. As vehicles drive over the salt on the roads, this is what helps clear further snow from the surface. This made it an even tougher task for our teams but they are working tirelessly.”
Gritters are on call 24 hours a day and farmer contractors, duty managers and overnight patrols are all on standby.
County Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Access, added: “We have a robust winter gritting service and do our best to keep the county moving. The safety of our residents is the top priority, so please be assured that our gritting teams are working around the clock to respond to poor conditions on roads, cycleways and pavements.
“We are urging drivers to be aware that ice will continue to cause hazards on the roads. Please drive with caution and allow extra time for your essential journeys.”
The County Council uses the latest weather forecasting technology in planning its gritting operations. This includes ice prediction weather stations, a 24-hour weather forecast and road temperature sensor data. For live updates of road conditions on North Yorkshire’s roads please visit www.northyorks.gov.uk/road-cameras-and-weather-conditions