With some savage icy weather reportedly heading our way, how prepared is the region for the onslaught of winter? And what steps can you take to stay safe, warm and healthy? Rural affairs correspondent CHRIS HILL reports.

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According to meteorologists, we must brace ourselves for the first real cold snap of the winter.

The Met Office has issued a cold weather alert, and the forecast is for biting winds from the north east, bringing sub-zero temperatures.

On Saturday, the Met Office issued what is known as a yellow alert of snow for the East, including Norfolk, with the risk of snow between 12.05am on Monday morning and through to Tuesday.

The Highways Agency has also warned drivers that snow is set to fall across all regions of the country, issuing an amber alert.

They have urged drivers to check the weather forecast before travelling between 3pm on Sunday and 9am on Tuesday and to be prepared for an “increased risk of adverse driving conditions”.

Drivers are advised to plan for their journey before they set out, checking the forecast and road conditions and to leave extra time if travel conditions are poor, and to delay their journey if the weather becomes severe.

The icy spell has also brought a raft of other warnings and advice on how to stay warm, healthy and safe, whether at home or out on the roads and pavements.

Health chiefs estimate there are around 532 avoidable deaths in Norfolk and Waveney every winter due to the cold conditions.

Many are attributable to respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes, but other reasons include slips and trips on icy ground where fractured and broken bones have led to further complications such as blood clots and pressure sores.

NHS Norfolk and Waveney has issued five top tips for staying warm and healthy:

1. Heat your home well. Set your heating to between 18-21ºC and use a hot water bottle or electric blanket at night – but never use both together.

2. Get financial support. Government grants, benefits and advice are available to make homes more energy-efficient, through the Warm Front scheme on 0800 316 2805 or Age UK on 0800 169 6565.

3. Eat well and have plenty of fluids.

4. Get a flu jab. It’s free from your GP if you are over 65, pregnant, or have a long-term condition.

5. Look after yourself and others. Wrap up warm and take care on slippery surfaces if you need to go outside.

Dr Jenny Harries, director of public health for NHS Norfolk and Waveney, said: “Encouraging people to keep warm and healthy during the winter is one of our key priorities, particularly for older residents and those that spend all day at home.

“The five top tips show that it only takes a few simple measures to protect yourself and your family from winter-related illnesses and incidents.”

Age UK Norwich said winter took a huge toll on the health of older people in the city, where an average of 60 people over-65 die unnecessarily because of the cold every year.

Chief executive Phil Wells said: “It is appalling that over 10,000 households in the city are in fuel poverty – they would need to spend more than 10pc of their entire income to stay warm.

“And as many of us are older folk living alone, paying the same heating bills – and spending more time at home too – fuel poverty and its effects are a particular problem.

“You can help people to stay well in the cold. If you have a friend, neighbour or family member who is likely to be vulnerable to the cold, please pop in a call to make sure their heating is working and that they have food in the cupboard so they don’t have to go out if it is too cold. If there is a problem, see if you can help, but we are there in support if needed.”

Norfolk police warned motorists to be wary of rapidly-deteriorating driving conditions, and offered advice including:

-Make sure all your car lights are clean, working and you have no failed bulbs.

-Always ensure all windows are fully cleared of snow, frost and condensation before setting off – it is illegal to drive with obscured vision.

-Also clear snow from the top of the car as this can fall down and obscure your windscreen while you are driving.

-Make sure you have sufficient fuel for your journey. Keep the fuel tank topped up.

-Give yourself extra time for your journey and drive at a constant speed, with no sudden braking or turning.

-Take a mobile telephone with you and make sure it is fully charged. Carry a mobile charger in the car.

Chief Insp Chris Spinks, head of Norfolk and Suffolk Roads Policing, said: “Don’t take anything for granted. If we get really bad weather, then the number of serious collisions actually tails off, because fewer people go out and they are more careful. The decisions are made for them because they can see the roads are unsafe.

“Where we have a problem is in the grey areas when people might make assumptions. We would advise people to always err on the side of caution and drive to the conditions, because any extra minutes you save will go out the window if you slide off the road or, worse, hit someone else.”

Ambulance bosses said severe weather creates an increased demand across the NHS but, while some of that was unavoidable, taking simple measures reduced the risk of a medical emergency.

Neil Storey, director of operations for the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST), said: “While we are prepared for bad weather with tried and tested plans to manage it, inevitably it challenges emergency service resources and can affect response times if only because it is more difficult to get around.

“But simple things make a big difference to people, such as keeping yourself warm at home, ensuring you have enough heating oil or meter credit if necessary, keeping medicines stocked up and making sure you have grit and salt.

“Drivers should double check their vehicle is ready for ice and snow, with the correct tyres fitted and inflated and a boot stocked with de-icer and a scraper as well as a flask, water and blankets in case of breakdown. Even with all these precautions please be extra careful on the roads to avoid skids but don’t go outside – walking or driving – in severe weather unless you really need to.”

The EDP-backed Surviving Winter Appeal, run by Norfolk Community Foundation and Age UK Norfolk to help elderly people who are struggling to stay warm, has raised more than £40,000 through public donations since October 1, helping more than 300 households.

NCF chief executive Graham Tuttle said: “The incoming cold snap is a sharp reminder that there will still be elderly folk at home worried about switching their heating on because of the bills. Our message to them would be that we still have funds available to help them, so they should keep their heating on and apply to the Surviving Winter Fund via Age UK Norfolk as soon as possible. “Meanwhile we would also appeal to those who may still be thinking of donating their own winter fuel allowance to those they feel might need it more or simply support the campaign, to still do so, direct to the foundation.”

The Rt Revd Graham James, Bishop of Norwich, said: “Too many older people dread the cost of winter and wonder whether they will survive it.

“It is heartening that the Surviving Winter Campaign has again touched the hearts and pockets of many in Norfolk who are willing to recycle their own winter fuel payments so that others more in need may benefit.”

-To donate to the Surviving Winter appeal, contact Age UK Norfolk on 01603 787111.

-For a free Age UK booklet of hints and tips called Spread the Warmth, visit www.ageuk.org.uk or call 0800 169 65 65.

-For up-to-date local weather forecasts, updated twice a day, see the Weatherquest blog at www.edp24.co.uk.

11 comments

  • I'll certainly look out for what is known as snow after what is known as a yellow alert!

    Report this comment

    Thoreauwasright

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

  • Thank you EDP for your contribution to the Nanny State.

    Report this comment

    Johnny Norfolk

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

  • ***Wrap up warm and take care on slippery surfaces if you need to go outside.***. Thank you for that....i was thinking of going out later in t-shirt and shorts but for your timely advice. Ice is slippery is it ? I've often wondered but it's good to see it confirmed by experts who have studied the matter intensely.

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

  • Good grief - I remember the good old days. Only the living room used to have a fire because that was all people could afford. The rest of the house was as cold as ice. You went to bed with a hot water bottle, good pair of socks on your feet and a coat or two on top of the bed. In the morning you used to scrap the ice off the inside of the window and thaw out the milk which had been left by the milkman on the door step. Then you used to go off to school, which were always open and thought nothing of trudging through the snow in a pair of short trousers. Now we get an odd day or two of snow and the world comes to an end.

    Report this comment

    BG

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

  • Even the BBC have got in on the act. Yesterday their weather presenter was warning of, "noticeable snow." I never knew there were two types of snow, visible and invisible. You learn something everyday!

    Report this comment

    BG

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

  • People really need to check their messages before they post on this website - points being made are constantly ridiculed by their own poor grammar and spelling mistakes. It's embarrassing!

    Report this comment

    Applecart

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

  • We are not going to get the amounts of snow or low temperatures which happen each winter in North America or the Alps. Never mind how Britain struggles to cope, we will finish up with slippery pavements and side roads. We won't get two or three inches of snow (or more!) which is easier to walk on.

    Report this comment

    Capri

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

  • Look out for another full page chatty human-face article by Chloe in monday's EDP! That will make you all feel warm inside.

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

  • The whippet in the picture appears to have no head.

    Report this comment

    nrg

    Sunday, January 13, 2013

  • We hear that is enough grit and the roads are gritted in time before the snow, but why are pavements etc where people live gritted, where I live its like an ice skating rink to town, but this year Ive bought some grippers, dont know if they work but have got them anyway. We pay enough council tax so does anyone know why, pavements are not gritted..............

    Report this comment

    susiewong

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

  • You What! Now I have heard the lot, telling people to stay warm when it's cold. I had heard the the U K had turned into a "mother knows best" state but never believed it before this artical. What on earth would they say about our next 6 day forcaste Highs minus2 to minus8, lows minus 2 to minus 11c, would the advice be to hibernate for the rest of the winter, seeing it may even get colder!!

    Report this comment

    canuk

    Saturday, January 12, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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