Snow returns to North Staffordshire to test true grit of families across the region
HEAVY snow brought chaos to North Staffordshire's roads last night.
It snowed for more than four hours throughout the evening and left the region blanketed by upto four inches.
• GALLERY: Staffordshire snow: Your pictures
Drivers faced long delays as key roads were gridlocked.
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The A53 at Etruria ground to a halt as drivers tried to get up Basford Bank with emergency ambulances caught up in the congestion. And in the opposite direction, traffic heading for Cobridge lights was struggling to negotiate the incline.
There were hazardous conditions on the A50 and Market Street in Longton was closed between the Transport Lane junction and the A5005 Commerce Street junction because of ice and snow.
And the A521 Cheadle Road at Forsbrook was shut both ways after a lorry jack-knifed in the snow.
The problems on the roads were made worse by an accident on the southbound M6 between junctions 16 and 15 which closed two lanes. And entry and exit slip roads on both the north and southbound carriageways at junction 15 were closed because of the snow.
It was the latest challenge facing gritting crews as North Staffordshire and South Cheshire battled through nine days of bad weather.
At its height earlier this week, almost two-thirds of Staffordshire schools were closed and Stoke-on-Trent City Council received 1,500 requested for gritters.
Malcolm Dawson is the city council's strategic manager for roads and engineering.
The 54-year-old, from Brown Edge, said: "No authority could grit every road in the area – we go to where there is a greater risk. Gritters will drive on a pre-ordained route, focusing on main roads where there are frequent bus routes, emergency service routes, fire and police stations, hospitals and senior schools. Grit is not a magic bullet. It depends on the action of cars on the grit.
"We usually go out at 5.30am, so the rush-hour traffic can work it into the ice to break it up. Each run takes around three hours to complete, which consists of eight runs at the moment.
"We have recently had gritters on the road for 48 hours."
Highways staff, environmental service operatives and other employees all pitch in to help. We get a lot of criticism, but the council runs the gritting operation very cost effectively," said Malcolm.
The city council grits 493 roads – the equivalent of 280 miles (450km) – and on Thursday and Friday alone laid down 600 tonnes of rock salt.
It uses seven gritters and a 4x4, also drafting in other vehicles, such as tipper trucks, for town centres.
Councillor Ruth Rosenau, Stoke-on-Trent's cabinet member for regeneration, planning and transportation, said: "We've already received almost 2,000 requests for pavements or paths to be gritted or for other assistance. Every call we receive is monitored and logged and allocated for teams to address.
"But with so many requests, it will take time to respond to every inquiry."
Meanwhile, Cheshire East Council has 17 primary gritting routes, with a fleet of 17 frontline gritters.
Its teams treat a total of 710 miles (1,144km) of primary roads when ice or frosty conditions are forecast.
A normal gritting route for the council takes approximately four hours and it aims to complete all the routes before 7am.
Staffordshire County Council owns 55 gritters and 60 snow ploughs.
Its crews have used 7,300 tonnes of grit since January 17, with an average treatment costing £30,000. They grit 43 per cent of the 3,730 miles (6,000km) road network.
Councillor Mike Maryon, Staffordshire's cabinet member for highways, said: "The teams have been working around the clock.
"We are a vast county and I think people recognise that we can't get to every single road."
The severe weather also has an impact on businesses.
Asda had to put Operation Snowflake into effect as soon as the snow hit and has been providing a handy guide for customers. The Met Office said that today will be more settled, with temperatures up to around 3°C. However on Sunday, milder, wetter air will push across the country.
Figures from Wednesday showed that Leek had nine centimetres of snow to put it in 14th place in a UK table topped by Little Rissington in Gloucestershire with 30 cm.
The Met Office has advised people to prepare essentials, such as a shovel, torch and water, to check on neighbours, grit paths and prepare for travel disruption.