Western Morning News (Saturday)

‘Keep an eye on elderly’ as cold snap hits the West

- MIKE BEDIGAN

PUBLIC Health England yesterday urged people to look out for the vulnerable as some of the coldest weather of the winter so far threatens the South West.

With mild and damp weather set to change to ice and the risk of snow in some areas, Dominic Mellon, deputy director of health protection for PHE in the South West, reminded people to “stay warm and well.”

He said socially distanced checks on frail or older neighbours or relatives, especially those living alone, could be “lifesavers as the temperatur­e falls”.

A YELLOW warning for ice has been issued for parts of Devon and Cornwall starting in the early hours today. The warning, which ends at 9am, neverthele­ss marks a dramatic change in the temperatur­e across the UK, which will be felt even as far south as Devon and Cornwall.

The ice warning covers most of Cornwall and Devon, although coastal areas should escape.

The Met Office states: “Ice may lead to some difficult driving conditions early on Saturday.” The weather service added that people should expect injuries from slips and falls on icy surfaces as well as icy patches on untreated roads, pavements and cycle paths.

And Britain is bracing itself for an icy blast coming from Scandanvia from Sunday onwards.

Temperatur­es will be struggling to get much above freezing in quite a few places, with some areas such as the Pennines and high parts of Scotland seeing several degrees below that.

Birmingham faces lows of minus 2C by Tuesday morning, while a strong easterly wind will make it feel many degrees below freezing, even affecting the Westcountr­y. Met Office forecaster Steven Keates said it will be “really unpleasant” to be outdoors, adding: “If you do have to go outside there are lots of layers required, I think.”

Mr Keates said the south of Britain will see a “marked” drop in temperatur­es across Saturday and Sunday, with some parts possibly seeing 5-10cm of snow.

He said: “Enough snow is on the cards to cause potentiall­y quite a bit of disruption in the south-east.”

PUBLIC Health England has urged people to check on the elderly and vulnerable as heavy snow and icy conditions are predicted across the UK over the first February weekend.

The Met Office issued amber weather warnings in the east of England for Sunday – stretching from Norwich down to Canterbury – and warned that hazardous conditions could last well into next week.

The RAC said it expected a sharp increase in breakdowns over the weekend and that people should think “extremely carefully” before setting out on journeys.

Dr Owen Landeg, group leader, of extreme events and health protection at PHE, said it was “crucial” that people check in with relatives and neighbours.

“Cold weather isn’t just uncomforta­ble, it can have a serious impact on health,” he said. “For older people and those with heart and lung problems, it can increase the risks of heart attacks, strokes and chest infections.

“So it’s really crucial at this time, especially ahead of a very cold snap, to remember to check on frail or older neighbours or relatives, especially those living alone or who have serious illnesses.

“Make a call or socially-distanced doorstep visit if they live close by, to remind them of some simple but important health tips. It’s also helpful to check they have enough food and drinks and any medicines they need. This will help them to stay warm and stay well.”

The Met Office also extended its yellow warnings for snow and ice, covering the length of Britain, from midday on Saturday to midday on Wednesday.

Simon Partridge, meteorolog­ist for the Met Office, added that continuous snow showers and strong wind in the east on Sunday would result in “really bad” visibility and up to 20cm of snow in some areas.

“As the snow is blowing around obviously there may be places where it will accumulate more because it will drift,” he said.

“That means significan­t disruption and obviously at the moment with vaccinatio­n centres open seven days a week that can have a knock-on effect there as well.”

Residents in Kent were told by the council to follow “basic, common sense advice to help keep themselves warm and well”.

Kent County Council deputy director for public health Allison Duggal said: “It is vital that during this prolonged period of severe weather, people act to keep themselves and their home warm - even if this is just by heating the bedroom and living room.”

Around 22 vehicles were stranded in snow at Loch Droma, north-west of Inverness yesterday, sparking an emergency services rescue operation. Network Rail said services were disrupted on the Highland Mainline despite plough trains being used to clear snow.

Ben Aldous, RAC patrol of the year, said: “We are expecting next week’s protracted period of sub-zero temperatur­es to lead to a sharp rise in the number of breakdowns and ‘bumps’ as those who have to drive struggle with very hazardous conditions.

“As patrols, we are well equipped to deal with the severe cold, but we urge drivers to think extremely carefully before setting out and question whether their journey is absolutely necessary.”

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