COUNCILS across the region say they are prepared for the worst, if predictions of a snowy start to next week come true.
Weather forecasters expect the weekend to bring a more marked drop in the recent unseasonally mild temperatures, with fleets of gritters on standby.
Tony Conlan, a forecaster from MeteoGroup UK, the weather division of the Press Association, warned of the possibility of “moderate to heavy snowfall” for the North-East and North Yorkshire on Monday (January 14).
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Mr Conlan said temperatures of up to 5C were expected for Friday and Saturday, falling closer to freezing as the weekend progresses.
He said: “Saturday night looks as if it will be a cold and frosty night, with a chance of wintry showers.
“Sunday looks similar, with some sunny spells through the afternoon.
“Some snow may arrive later in the day, mainly for Northumberland and County Durham.
“Next week is going to be colder, with the potential for some snow at times.
“Although it is difficult to predict in detail, Monday night looks the most likely time for a period of moderate or heavy snowfall.”
Some forecasters have predicted a prolonged cold snap lasting several weeks and affecting much of the UK.
Officials at two of the region’s biggest councils – Durham and North Yorkshire – have sought to reassure residents that they are prepared for severe weather.
A spokesman for North Yorkshire County Council said: “We constantly monitor the weather conditions and as soon as we see road surface temperatures getting towards zero, we make arrangements.
“Our gritters usually go out at 5am, but if it is going to be more severe, they will go out the previous night.”
Meanwhile, Durham County Council this winter boosted its fleet of gritters with ten new vehicles.
A Darlington Borough Council spokeswoman added: “We understand from that there will probably be a chance of snow during the weekend. However, it is not expected to be particularly heavy.
“That said, our teams are on standby, as they always are at this time of year. We have plentiful supplies of salt and are prepared for more severe weather should it occur.”
Meanwhile, the Institute for Advance Motoring has issued advice on driving in snowy and icy conditions.
For more information, visit drivingadvice.org.uk