Problems could hail from storm - West Norfolk braces for the Beast from the East

Drivers across West Norfolk were warned yesterday by Norfolk County Council to take care on the roads with the imminent arrival of freezing conditions from Siberia.

Nicknamed The Beast From The East, readers were already seeing signs of its arrival yesterday morning as snow fell from the sky.

Nick Tupper, Norfolk County Council’s assistant director for Highways, said drivers could be facing road conditions they have not seen for years.

He said: “We’ve been working to prepare for the days ahead and this has already seen our crews out gritting every day for the last seven days which means we’ve already got a good layer of salt on all our gritting routes.

“If necessary we will fit snow ploughs to the gritters and we can call on local farmers to help with clearing snow on the minor road network.”

He added: “However it’s a myth that snow won’t settle on treated roads as heavy snow falling on a salted road causes a rapid drop in road surface temperature. Salt then becomes less effective at melting the snow and ice, so even treated roads can become snow covered.

“In time treated roads will clear down to the asphalt again, but it often takes the action of traffic to speed up the process. And in severe cold weather when the temperature drops below approximately -7’C, even salt will not prevent the roads from icing. So people need to take extra care.”

Despite the weather warnings, a sleep-out organised by volunteers to raise awareness of the plight of the homeless was set to go ahead last night.

Yesterday, organiser Jo Rust said: “It’s going to be cold and uncomfortable but we’re going to be prepared for that because we have the luxury of going home to a warm bed and a comfortable home after we are finished. Homeless people do not have this luxury.

“We’re giving people a flavour of what it’s like to have to sleep on the streets no matter what the weather, even when you’re ill or t’s cold outside. Showing them what it is like to not even be able to have a lie-in at the weekend.

“Because of the weather, people have been asking whether we will go ahead. We will be sleeping outside for as long as possible, I’m not going to compromise anyone’s safety but we will be going ahead.”

Age UK Norfolk have advised West Norfolk residents to stay warm as best they can during the cold weather by being prepared.

Linda Matthews, information advice and advocacy manager, said: “Make sure you have a little store of soup or frozen meals in case you can’t get out to get food supplies. If you can’t afford to heat your whole house, stay in one room and stay warm. Or heat your whole house and then apply for our Survive In Winter Grant - we would rather people stay warm.”

The cold weather could cause issues over rubbish collection in West Norfolk according to the borough council, due to garden and food waste freezing in the bins. In this case, rubbish collections will be left until the next scheduled date.

Anglian Water has launched a “Keep Your Pipes Cosy” Campaign to remind home owners to look after their pipes and tanks to ensure they stay cosy and dry when temperatures fall.

Regan Harris, from Anglian Water, said: “While it might be tempting to think that winter is nearly over, we’re heading for a cold spell which is why we’re urging people to make sure their homes are prepared for this week’s forecast drop in temperature. We’re calling on everyone to ensure your pipes are lagged, fix dripping taps and have a plumber’s number to hand if the worst comes to the worst.

“A burst pipe can mean huge disruption with the potential to cause thousands of pounds of damage as well as affecting your water supply. Don’t forget to keep an eye on family, friends and vulnerable neighbours too and if you’re out and about and spot a leaking pipe then please report it to our Leakline on 0800 771 881 or visit the In Your Area page on our website.”

With heavy snow forecast, working parents will be anxiously waiting for news about school closures.

Employment expert, Tony Hyams-Parish, partner at law firm DMH Stallard, clarifies what rights mums and dads have when the school stays shut and the kids have nowhere to go.

He said: “Section 57A(e) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 allows employees to take a reasonable period of time off to deal with an unexpected incident which involves the employee’s child while they are at school (or another educational establishment). School closure due to weather is likely to fall under these rules.

“As soon as reasonably practicable, the employee must tell the employer of the need to leave work and the reason for this. This should include sufficient information to enable the employer to determine whether the statutory right applies.

“They must also tell the employer how long they expect to be away from work (unless it is not reasonably practicable). The right is to take a “reasonable” amount of time off to take action which is “necessary”, and this will always depend on the circumstances. Importantly, there is no right to be paid during this time.

“Although that’s the strict legal position, many employers will be more flexible. They can allow employers to work from home, make time up later or where a longer period is necessary, allow holiday to be taken. Some will allow the time off without any consequence such as deduction of pay.”