THE region is continuing to experience disruption following four days of blizzards, ice and freezing conditions.

Weather warnings remain in place in parts of the North-East today, with people being urged to only make essential journeys over the weekend.

In Teesdale, in County Durham, mountain rescue team leader Steve Ower urged people not to attempt driving on some roads after having to come to the aid of a lorry driver who had been stuck on one of the country’s highest roads for two days.

Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue, which usually responds to about 40 incidents a year, has had at least 25 call outs this week, with 80 per cent of the team’s volunteers taking part in operations.

One call out was to a Belgian lorry driver, who became stuck after following Sat Nav directions after finding the A66 was shut on Wednesday.

He got into difficulties at Yad Moss, close to the Cumbrian border between Langdon Beck and Alston, but had to wait until Friday morning to be rescued because conditions were so bad.

Mr Ower said: “It was very difficult conditions. People talk about it being a white out on TV when it’s not really but this was literally a white out. We’re talking 15 feet drifts.”

After working with the mountain rescue team from Penrith, as well as local farmers checking their sheep, they managed to get him safely to Alston.

He added: “It was a good result, though he had spent two days up there in atrocious conditions. As we were coming down we stopped quite a few vehicles, including a couple with a baby, who were trying to get across.

“In the end we had to put a vehicle across the road.

“Members of the public should know if the A66 is shut, chances are these remote roads are not going to be open either. It’s somewhat foolhardy to just follow a GPS.”

Elsewhere, Sunderland Football Club has created a warm room at the Stadium of Light, providing homeless people with a place to sleep, hot food and hot drinks, which will be open until at least 9am on Monday.

Urgent and emergency care services are still running with skeleton staff and people are being urged to only attend if absolutely necessary.

The NHS, which has thanked “heroic” staff for their hard work and dedication, is also asking people to call ahead if they are unable to attend planned hospital appointments and are warning that community healthcare teams may struggle to reach patients at home.

Professor Chris Gray, NHS England’s Medical Director for Cumbria and the North East, said: “Staff are staying overnight at hospitals, getting lifts to work from family and colleagues with four-wheel drive vehicles and are even walking long distances to get to their place of work. Everyone appreciates their dedication and efforts in such difficult circumstances.”

Durham County Council also praised staff for helping out. Among them were Steven Biggs and Stephen Hill, who were operating a snow blower in Harwood in Teesdale when they spotted pregnant ewes which were stuck in the snow and stopped to free them.

Support worker Lisa Quinn, who usually works at the Pathways day service in Stanley, has been walking miles in blizzard conditions to visit older and vulnerable residents at home to deliver medication and shopping.

And bereavement coordinator Tony Johnston has been getting up at 4am to clear paths at Durham Crematorium so that funerals could go ahead this week.

In Spennymoor, volunteers braved the cold to clear the football pitch in the hope that their fixture would go ahead today.

Around 30 people turned out to clear snow from the goal areas but in spite of their efforts, the match was postponed

Jack Franks, from the club, thanked volunteers for their help.