RURAL areas of the region were hardest hit by the latest wintry blast to sweep the North East.
Parts of Northumberland and County Durham were temporarily cut off as drifts of up to two metres (seven feet) blocked roads, while heavy snow closed schools and disrupted transport networks across the region.
The Army even had to be called in to rescue bus passengers stranded near Otterburn, Northumberland, and police and council workers were on the scene into the night in Rothbury to try and help people access the village. The A68 north of Stagshaw roundabout to Carter Bar and the A696 from Belsay to the A68 were also closed due to drifting snow.
In Derwentside, shops in Consett closed their doors, with many people unable to get out of their streets. Homes were also left without power in Otterburn, Prudhoe and Ponteland, with Northern Powergrid reporting that engineers faced difficult driving conditions to carry out repairs.
At just before 9am yesterday, two buses became stuck in the snow on the A696 close to Otterburn.
Police and officers from Northumberland County Council attended and, during the early afternoon, with the help of Army personnel from Otterburn, were able to get the buses moving.
Officers were also at the scene in Rothbury, where the only main available access road, the B6341, suffered from snow drifts blowing across the road. The majority of shops were also closed. The other main access road is currently closed due to an earlier landslip.
A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: “Police and the local authority – with gritters and snow ploughs – were on site all day and will continue into the night in an effort to improve conditions.”
Northumberland County Councillor for Rothbury, Stephen Bridgett, said last night: “We have had four tractor ploughs, a gritter and a snow blower working to keep the road across the moor clear, but it is like a different world up there. Every time it clears the wind blows the snow back across the road.
“But the council and police have done a remarkable job and there has been a convoy system in place for people getting in and out of the village.
“We also have volunteers who help to clear drives and deliver groceries to the elderly, and the community has really come together.”
In Derwentside, the snow showed no sign of letting up and minor routes, including the road from Burnhope to south Stanley, becoming impassable.
Durham County Councillor for Consett North Clive Robson said: “It’s really bad, it’s never let up at all. We must have about eight inches. All the schools are closed and, although the main roads are passable with care, many people just can’t get out of the estates. All of the shops on the high street were closed this afternoon.”
Meanwhile, Northumberland College’s Kirkley Hall Campus will be closed today but plans to re-open tomorrow morning. Hexham and Prudhoe Centres will also be closed today but Ashington and Berwick centres will be open as usual. Students are advised to travel only if safe to do so from where they live.
Snow was expected to continue throughout last night into today, with showers continuing throughout the day.