THE heavy snow showers and sub-zero conditions which caused chaos across North-East roads on Monday abated a little yesterday -and almost all of the region's schools stayed open.

Despite the lull in wintry showers, weather experts and gritting machines were on standby last night as more severe weather was expected overnight and today.

The Environment Agency said the freezing temperatures were preventing much of the snow from melting, which was staving off flooding.

A spokeswoman said there were no flood warnings but the situation was being monitored carefully. She said: "If there is a sudden mild spell, it may be a problem.

"However, nine inches of snow is only equivalent to one inch of rain."

Hundreds of gritting machines have been drafted in to put thousands of tonnes of salt on roads across the region.

Durham County Council said it had used about 1,800 tonnes of salt since Saturday and used 60 gritting machines and snowploughs.

In Middlesbrough, the town's five gritters were given a bit of a rest yesterday after a busy day on Monday. A council spokesman said that 500 tonnes of salt were used between Saturday night and yesterday morning.

In Hartlepool, four gritting machines have been working round the clock to keep main roads safe.

A council spokesman estimated about 300 tonnes of salt had been used since Saturday.

Nine gritters operate in Darlington, salting 56 per cent, or 300 miles, of roads in the borough.

Rail and air travel was largely unaffected yesterday, but some minor roads were still only passable with care.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said gritters had been on patrol on the trunk roads since Friday.

Graham Butler, Met Office forecaster, said snow showers would be heavy overnight and today, but conditions would improve towards the end of the week with fewer heavy snow showers.

The weekend should be milder and mainly dry.