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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 February 2007, 16:21 GMT
Thaw sets in after snow problems
Bus in Shropshire
Forecasters said there was a risk of flooding as the snow thaws
Major transport problems caused by heavy snow in parts of England have eased as a thaw continues.

Driving conditions have improved in the West Midlands which saw widespread problems on the roads including traffic gridlock in Birmingham for many hours.

Some 4,000 homes in Shropshire were left without electricity as snow brought down power lines.

The Met Office said hilly areas in Derbyshire, Yorkshire and County Durham were most at risk of snow.

Forecasters said that elsewhere there would be a risk of flooding in south-west England and the Midlands as rain combined with thawing snow and ice.

Gridlocked traffic in the snow in Birmingham city centre
Traffic in Birmingham city centre came to a standstill
A Met Office forecaster said: "Ultimately, over the weekend, it's a story of rain rather than snow.

"The main theme will be cloudy, grey, overcast weather, with any snow by the end of the weekend confined to the North and Scotland.

"As the snow begins to melt in Wales and the Midlands, with rain at the same time, there is an increased threat of flooding."

The worst affected areas on Friday were Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, the West Midlands and Staffordshire, though snow also fell in parts of South Yorkshire.

In Shropshire, power cuts affected areas from Ludlow to Wellington, and Ford, Wem, Broseley, Madeley and Craven Arms.

Abandoned cars

On Friday evening traffic in Birmingham city centre came to a standstill.

West Midlands Police advised people not to drive through the city centre unless it was absolutely unavoidable.

And the city council opened up the Council House in Victoria Square so that people who had abandoned their cars could walk there to get a cup of tea.

In Malvern in Worcestershire a group of Year 6 pupils were trapped at an outdoor centre as parents were not able to reach them as several roads in the area were blocked by jack-knifed lorries.

Our salt spreaders and snow ploughs have been busy overnight, and I'm pleased to report that the motorways and the major trunk roads are all open
Chris Holehouse, Highways Agency
At one point there was a 15-mile queue reported on the M5 near Bromsgrove in Worcestershire during the afternoon.

About 250 cars were abandoned on the A4103, the main road between Hereford and Worcester which remained shut on Saturday morning as agencies tried to recover them.

A Royal British Legion club in Worcestershire offered overnight accommodation to stranded drivers.

Gritters became stuck in traffic near Kidderminster leaving them unable to spread salt over affected roads.

West Midlands Ambulance Service said roads were so gridlocked it was hampering crews' ability to answer 999 calls.

It said it dealt with 300 more calls than usual and doctors had to give advice to people over the telephone.

A large operation continued overnight to clear roads that had been left impassable by heavy snowfall.

Snow falls near the Angel of the North statue
Snow near the Angel of the North statue near Gateshead
Chris Holehouse, from the Highways Agency, told BBC Radio Five Live the major roads had been kept clear for traffic.

"The motorway network's done very well overnight," he said.

"There was snow from the West Midlands overnight through Yorkshire, Lancashire and into the Scottish borders, but our salt spreaders and snow ploughs have been busy overnight, and I'm pleased to report that the motorways and the major trunk roads are all open."

Birmingham International Airport had to suspend flights for three hours on Friday evening while snow was cleared from the runway.

Hundreds of schools were closed on Thursday and Friday.




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Travellers and emergency services struggle in the snow



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