Winter whiteout strikes Staffordshire – and more snow is coming (video and pictures)
SCHOOLS closed their doors, bus services were cancelled and scores of workers headed home early as an icy winter whiteout gripped the region.
Families woke up to a thick blanket of snow yesterday morning, with blizzard conditions causing chaos throughout the day.
And weather experts have warned families to brace themselves for a further deluge.
Last night gritting teams continued to work on the region's roads in preparation for wintry conditions over the next few days, with temperatures expected to plunge below freezing.
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Yesterday the Met Office's weather station in Leek recorded 10cm of snow on the ground compared to the 4cm on Monday.
Robin Thwaytes, a forecaster at the Met Office's operations centre, says the area is 'not out of the woods yet' in terms of snow fall.
He said: "There is a risk of some coming up from the south east on Sunday night and possibly Monday.
"It will stay cold in Stoke-on-Trent over the week and there could be one or two spells of snow.
"The week after it will start warming up and we should see the temperature rise which will lead to a gradual thaw."
• GALLERY: Staffordshire snow: Your pictures
Yesterday more than 130 schools in the region closed.
Snow began falling on Thursday night before it became heavier from 8am yesterday.
As the downfall began to stick to the roads and pavements local authorities, bus companies, emergency services, hospitals and businesses were called into action and as a result:
Stoke-on-Trent City Council was forced to cancel bin collections;
The authority also closed Stoke-on-Trent Gymnastics Centre until Sunday along with the Wallace Sport and Education Centre. Scheduled swimming lessons have been council and council football pitches will also be unavailable over the weekend;
Bus companies First, Baker and Wardle suspended services yesterday afternoon. By 4pm First had reinstated a number of services. Further reviews will take place this morning;
Train operator London Midland suspended the Crewe to London service calling at Stoke;
More than 110 patients visited the University Hospital of North Staffordshire's (UHNS) A&E department in the morning. The hospital was also forced to cancel its outpatient appointments;
Police were called to scores of road traffic collisions and broken-down vehicles. This led to some roads being temporarily closed off while recovery work was carried out.
As the snow continued to fall in the morning dozens of headteachers were forced to close their schools as families remained glued to the internet for information.
Elaine Preston, headteacher at Longton's Gladstone Primary School, said: "We haven't closed our school due to snow since the 1980's so we didn't want to unless we had to. We did remain open but parents were given the option of picking up their children if they wanted to."
However students overcame the conditions to sit exams at the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College.
Principal Paul Mangnall said: "We stayed open and had good levels of attendance."
Student Laura Tulley, aged 18, walked from her home in Birches Head to the Stoke-based college to sit an A-level law exam.
The teenager, who hopes to study law at university, said: "I left my house at 11am and it took about an hour and a half to get there so I was in time for the exam at 1.15pm.
"I couldn't let the weather stop me as it was an important exam."
Workers battled against the conditions in the morning and evening.
Alex Dutton, aged 24, from Sandbach, drove to work for his job as a sales manager at Lifestyle Services Group in Crewe.
He said: "The snow has been terrible outside. It is dangerous driving in these conditions."
Becky Skinner, aged 27, of Leigh near Tean, was sent home early from JCB's Rocester plant where she works in the insurance department.
She said: "It usually takes me about 15 minutes to get home but it took about an hour and a half."
The roads also led to bus services being suspended as drivers found themselves stranded in icy side-roads.
Ady Culpin, First Potteries marketing manager, said: "We started to have problems with the main routes and the side roads were horrendous.
"We kept services operating for as long as possible but were forced to suspend services at 2pm.
"Our drivers were kept on standby for when we could get some routes reinstated. We have to consider the safety of both our drivers and the public."
Traders were also left counting the cost of shoppers opting to remain at home.
Outlet store Freeport Talke was forced to close but is expected to reopen today.
A number of shops inside Hanley's Potteries Shopping Centre opted to close early. Management at the centre issued a morning memo to all units advising early closure was an individual decision.
Dan Billington, a stylist at HedRush on Meigh Street, said the salon had roughly five clients compared to the usual 16 on a Friday.
The 20-year-old, of Birches Head, said: "Most of the clients have called up to cancel today and we closed early.
"Hanley was very quiet with not many people around the town."
But some traders are hopeful of cashing in on the snowfall.
Steve Robbins, manager of Smallthorne-based Household Discounts, was selling sledges left over from last year's big freeze.
The 43-year-old of Norton said: "We have about 400 in stock in all different colours and they have been selling well. We expect to sell more over the weekend."
In the Moorlands the snowfall left many villages cut off.
But landlord Steve Jenkins was welcoming drinkers into Oakamoor's Admiral Jervis Inn.
Steve, who has run the venue with wife Denise for just over eight years, said: "Because we are in a valley we usually escape it but not this time. It is two hills which lead out of the village so a lot of people have had to stay put.
"We had people coming in for beer as well as hot drinks. We do have a good ale selection and a log burner."