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Snow tips for Wearside

Temperatures are plummeting in the North East with more heavy snow expected over night this evening.

The so-called 'Beast from the East' has already caused disruption to roads and public transport in other parts of the UK.

An amber weather warning will be in place for our region - due to it turning worse by the early hours tomorrow.

So as temperatures plummet and vehicles freeze over, the RAC has put together some tips on how to de-ice your car properly.


What are the commons de-icing mistakes that could land you in hot water?

1) Leaving your engine running

On its website, the RAC warns that leaving the engine running on a vehicle parked on the public road is an offence under the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986. This also reinforces Rule 123 of the Highway Code.

Rule 123 of the Highway Code: If you fail to turn off your engine when instructed, you may receive a fixed penalty notice of £20, which will increase to £40 if unpaid within a specific time frame.

2) De-icing fines

On its website, the RAC says: "Failure to properly clear the windscreen of snow or ice could result in the driver receiving a fixed penalty notice under the CU20 penalty code. Using a vehicle with parts or accessories in a "dangerous condition" could result in a fine of £60 and three penalty points.

"Simply removing the ice from the driver’s side of the windscreen is not enough – you must de-ice the entire area, using the wipers when the ice has melted.

"The driver must by law have a full view of the road and traffic ahead of the motor vehicle, so it is well worth taking the extra time to fully clear your windscreen and your mirrors too".

3) Damaging your windscreen

On its website, the RAC says: "Don't be tempted to use a credit card and NEVER pour boiling water over the windows. When the boiling water comes into contact with your freezing cold car windows it could at the very least weaken the glass and at the very worst cause it to crack.

"Also try to avoid using a credit card or CD case to scrape the ice and frost off your windows. As well as potentially snapping your card, this method could also scratch your windscreen".

How do I de-ice my car properly?

  • Thoroughly clearing the windscreen of ice is not the work of a moment. It could take around 10 minutes, not least because you'll also need to de-ice the side windows, mirrors and lights too.
  • Using a dedicated ice-scraper and de-icer will speed things up. Don't wait until the first frost before discovering you have run out of de-icer: plan ahead.
  • Squirt the de-icer over the windscreen, before clearing the ice with a scraper. 
  • It’s also worth lifting up your wipers by hand to check they are not frozen to the windscreen. If they are, switching them on could potentially burn out the motor – again, an expensive fix. It could also tear the wiper blades.
  • If you do not have any de-icer, there are other common household solutions you can use instead. You can use a basic solution of water with an added teaspoon of salt to pour over any affected areas. Another homemade remedy is adding the solution of three parts vinegar to one part water to a spray bottle as a homemade de-icer.
  • If you’re heading out for the day, be sure to keep a spare de-icer and scraper in the car. Temperatures can quickly drop in the evening, meaning you might need to repeat the process before leaving work.

The Northern Powergrid, the company responsible for the network that delivers electricity to homes and businesses across the North East, Yorkshire and northern Lincolnshire, is prepared if heavy snow and freezing temperature forecasted this week affects its power network.

Rod Gardner, Northern Powergrid's head of network operations, said:

"We’re monitoring the weather very closely.  We’ve already taken action to ensure that we have extra engineers available and our 4x4s and specialist access vehicles ready so we can restore power and carry out repairs if there is any disruption or damage to our network as a result of the wintery conditions.

“We’re also ready with additional staff at our local 24-hour control, dispatch and contact centre (which can be reached by calling the free 105 power cut number), as well as teams in other locations around our business who will be ready to offer our customers support and advice. 

“Our website, northernpowergrid.com, has an easy-to-use power cut map and reporting service which our customers can use to report a power cut and get updates about what we’re doing to get their lights back on.

“We’re encouraging customers to take a few minutes to add 105 and bookmark our website on their mobile phones so they are ready to use our services if they need to.  They may also want to watch our videos, which will help them know exactly what to do if they do have a power cut.”

Northern Powergrid’s 24/7 Twitter (@northpowergrid) and Facebook pages will also provide regular updates and advice to customers and local communities.

The electricity distribution company, which manages a network of 63,000 substations and more than 60,000 miles of overhead power lines and underground cables, will deploy all available resources as necessary to deal with any potential damage caused.

Customers with a disability, medical condition or very young families, who may need greater assistance during a power cut and have signed up to the company’s Priority Services Register, will be kept updated as a priority.

Northern Powergrid is also ready to use its customer support vehicles, wherever possible, during any potential prolonged power cut to help local communities by offering practical support such as stay-warm packs and hot drinks. Its partnership with the British Red Cross will also help provide additional care to customers on the register, when necessary.

Northern Powergrid is urging anyone who spots any damaged cables or other equipment not to approach the area, but to report it immediately by calling 105 the free, easy-to-remember national phone line which will route people to Northern Powergrid.

Power cut advice and tips include:

  • bookmark Northern Powergrid’s online power cut map and reporting service on your mobile devices – www.northernpowergrid.com/power-cuts 
  • have a charged mobile phone with important numbers, including 105 - the free national power cut phone line, easily accessible.
  • turn off electrical appliances at the socket (this is particularly important for heating or cooking appliances as your power could be restored at any time and potentially cause a safety hazard)
  • keep one light switched on so you know when power is restored
  • keep a battery or wind-up torch handy – they’re much safer than candles
  • check on your elderly or sick neighbours and relatives
  • ensure you have warm clothing and blankets handy and some food and drink in your home that does not require electricity to heat or prepare it only call 999 in an emergency.     

Meanwhile, the NHS is urging people across the North East and North Cumbria to take care of themselves and their neighbours.  

Cold weather can be very harmful to health and around 25,000 more people die over the course of each winter compared with other times of the year.

Exposure to cold indoor or outdoor temperatures increases blood pressure, thereby increasing the risk of heart failure, kidney disease, stroke or dementia.

Cold temperatures can also make blood more likely to clot, which can lead to heart attacks and stroke. And cold can also affect the respiratory system, which reduces the lung's ability to fight off infection explaining why lower temperatures are linked with bronchitis and pneumonia.

The NHS advises elderly and people with long-term conditions to keep warm, both indoors and out, to heat their homes to at least 18C, and there is still time, as well as vaccine stocks, to get the flu jab to help avoid unnecessary hospital stays.

NHS England’s Medical Director for Cumbria and the North East, Professor Chris Gray, said:

“Cold weather is harmful and we need to take care of ourselves and our neighbours. Please take time to check that your neighbours are okay and if you don’t need to go out, stay in and keep warm.

“It is vital that vulnerable people take preventative steps to stay well such as wrapping up warm, avoiding slips and trips on ice, stocking up medicine cabinets and making sure prescription drugs are ordered and collected.”

Colder weather is not only associated with an increase in deaths but also has a significant impact on the number of people becoming ill, increasing the winter pressures felt by health care services.

Falls are one of the main causes of older people attending accident and emergency departments and this can sometimes lead to lengthy hospital stays.

GPs and primary care clinicians see and treat 90% of all illness episodes,and for every one degree centigrade temperature drop below five degrees, there is a 10% increase in the number of older people consulting their GP for breathing problems.

Professor Gray added:

“Emergency departments are under huge pressure and many winter attendances are due to issues which could have been avoided had people asked for medical advice at the first sign of illness.

“Health advice is available by calling 111, on the NHS Choices website or from your local pharmacist or GP. Your local pharmacist is trained in managing minor illnesses and using a pharmacy as the first point of call for advice helps to free up GP time for urgent appointments and reduces non-emergency A&E visits.”


The NHS England ‘Stay Well Pharmacy’ campaign is highlighting the benefits of seeing a local pharmacy early for concerns such as sore throats, coughs, colds, tummy troubles, teething, and aches and pains.

Parents and carers of children are particularly encouraged to use their local pharmacy as it offers families a quick way of getting expert clinical help.

If you care for children, the child health app is free to download and offers a wealth of advice and support.

Search nhs.uk/staywellpharmacy for more information and to help you find your nearest NHS pharmacy and opening hours.

As the Met Office issues severe weather warnings, the RSPCA is urging people to ensure their animals are safe and warm. 

Operational Superintendent Matt Sacks said:

“The RSPCA is releasing advice to ensure animals and wildlife stay safe during the cold spell. As parts of the country are waking up to a layer of snow, it’s important to remember to keep animals safe and warm contact the RSPCA in case of emergencies.” 

As the temperature begins to drop, the RSPCA advises keeping a closer eye on outdoor pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs.

If the temperature starts to reach freezing, you may wish to consider moving your rabbit hutch inside or into an outhouse, shed or unused garage.

They recommend that guinea pigs are housed indoors when temperatures are below 15OC. If you do bring your rabbits or guinea pigs indoors, they still need plenty of time and room to exercise in a safe and secure environment.

If you have to leave them outside, you must provide them with lots of extra bedding, such as dust-free hay, and make sure their home is protected from adverse weather. For example, covers can be purchased to help insulate hutches in the winter months, but care must be taken to ensure there is adequate ventilation. 

For rabbits and guinea pigs housed in a hutch, a sloped roof is preferable to allow water to drain away. Hutches should be raised off the ground by at least four inches and placed in a sheltered position, facing away from wind and rain. 

If your rabbit or guinea pig gets wet, rub them dry with a towel and make sure they have plenty of warm bedding.