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Friday, December 28, 2012
Dreams of a White Christmas soon turned into a nightmare as the big freeze of half a century ago continued to tighten its grip on Norfolk and Suffolk. Derek James revives some chilly memories.
The holiday was over. The turkey had been eaten. The tinsel put away. It was time for life to get back to normal again....but the weather wasn’t playing ball.
As 1962 came to an end and 1963 began the temperatures continued to plummet. Roads were blocked, pipes froze. Life become a battle against the elements.
Frozen rivers, ice floes at sea, deep snow drifts. Life for those working on the land and the elderly was getting particularly tough.
Some factories and schools closed. The trains could run because of frozen points. Country communities were cut off.
An army of ploughs across Norfolk and Suffolk were fighting a losing battle to keep roads open.
Roads were blocked not only by snow but also by soil.
Winds of more than 60mph took the snow off exposed fields and were so fierce they also removed the top soil.
At Loddon, the dust clouds were estimated to be 200 feet high and roads were a foot deep in soil and at the height of the gale, visibility at Weybourne was down to a few yards as the air was full of soil and choking dust.
On the coast ships were stuck in the ice floes at sea but there was some light relief.
Skating was the name of the name. Championships were held at Oulton Broad over a mile-long course for the first time since 1954.
The rivers became playgrounds and in Norwich Bullards Brewery boss, Gerald Bullard, took to the Wensum on his skates to sup his pint of Bullards best and be photographed by the EDP.
Later in January the icy winds dropped but the cold intensified. A numbing -19C was recorded at Santon Downham and -15C at Mildenhall.
Water supplies were severed in various places and in Ipswich water was brought in by barge for four days and tankers supplied householders.
Farmers were tearing their hair out. Sugar beet remained in the ground. Pickaxes had to be taken to bales of rock-hard hay. Looking after animals was a real struggle.
With high pressure over Norolk and Suffolk, light winds and clear skies led to freezing fog and when it cleared the landscape looked, and felt, more like Sibera.
January came and went and in February the severe weather continued with frosts every night and the snow showing no signs of melting.
February was much the same with temperatures as low as -15C. Lowestoft endured 74 consecutive nights of frost and fishermen in the town’s trawler fleet had to battle against dangerous ice floes.
At Katwijk, in Holland, the sea was froxen for asd far as the eye could see, and ice skaters were in their element.
Staff at the Cantley beet sugar factory were marooned and survived on a diet of eggs and milk. The factory was closed but they couldn’t get out for a while as the roads were blocked.
Finally nature released its icy grip and as February passed into March temperatures rose and the thaw set in.
By the first week in March Cromer basked in a balmy 16C. Spring was on its way but people never forgot the big freeze of 1962/3.
If you have any memories or photographs of the winter half a century ago we would love to hear from you. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Derek at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE, or leave a comment below.