WIGAN is expected to come to a standstill today as weather experts predict up to 5ins of snow fall could hit the borough and temperatures plummet as low as minus 10.
The Met Office had yesterday issued a severe warning of heavy snow across the Greater Manchester area for tomorrow.
The warning lasts throughout the day and forecasters are urging drivers, businesses and households to be prepared.
There are bitterly cold conditions forecast for the following days with temperatures falling to minus 10C towards the end of next week.
Met Office forecaster Dan Williams said Friday morning rush-hour traffic could be hit by snow and the weather could affect fans travelling to weekend sports fixtures.
It is also in force across Cheshire and Lancashire, with high-lying areas of Greater Manchester expected to suffer the worst of the bad weather and snowfall up to eight inches.
Elsewhere in the country, temperatures could dip to plunge even lower with some forecasts of -15C (5F) temperatures.
Mr Williams said: “Thursday is expected to be pretty decent, dry through the day with bright spells. But in the early hours of Friday, there is a weather front pushing in from the west which is interacting with a cold air stream over the UK.
“It could result in widespread snow in Greater Manchester. Wigan will probably see snow start to fall between 6am and 9am on Friday then throughout the day and into the night.
“There is also the potential for some drifting as there will be winds.”
Andrew Fender, chairman of the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “Heavy snowfall and icy conditions can have a significant impact on all forms of transport, as previous winters have shown.
“I would encourage everyone to plan ahead now by thinking about how they travel and what their alternative options are.”
Record levels of rock salt have been ordered by councils to grit roads. Nationally, town halls have stockpiled 1.3million tonnes of road salt this winter – enough to fill more than 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to the latest figures supplied by the Local Government Association. The figure is twice as much as that used last year.
The Highways Agency has issued an amber alert and is warning motorists to be prepared for fresh falls of snow, heavy in places, on Friday morning.
In Wigan and across Gretaer Manchester, areas the snow is expected to arrive before the rush hour, bringing the potential for travel disruption. Motorists are advised to check the weather forecast this evening and allow extra time for their journey in the morning.
The snow is then forecast to spread east affecting other areas later in the morning.
Steve Crosthwaite, head of the Agency’s National Traffic Operations Centre said: “It would certainly be a good idea to check the latest forecast before you go to bed tonight so you’re prepared for the morning – and then set your alarm a bit earlier so you have extra time to prepare your car and make your journey in the morning.
“During periods of severe weather we also suggest people consider whether their journey is essential. They may want to delay their travel until conditions improve and to allow our winter fleet the chance to treat the roads.”
The M6, M62 and toher major routes in and around Wigan borough will be gritted say Highways chiefs, but they still advise people to check routes and tune in to local radio stations to keep up to date on traffic updates.
Steve Crosthwaite adds: “We are using salt to treat the road network and have ploughs and snow blowers on standby if necessary. Our traffic officers are working around the clock to monitor our road network, deal with any incidents and keep traffic moving.”
Wigan Atheletic’s home match against Sunderland will go ahead as planned.
Latics kick off at 3pm against the Black Cats at the DW Stadium and council officialss ay everyhting possible will be done to ensure fans can safely get to the match.
A spokesman for Wigan Council said: “The roads the council grits on nights the temperature falls below zero in the approach to the DW Stadium are Robin Park Road, Loire Drive and Anjou Boulevard.
“The remaining roads around the stadium are unadopted, apart from approximately 100 metres in length of Stadium Way. This stretch at the moment is in consultation.”
NO schools in the borough have confirmed if they were closing due to adverse weather conditions.
However, education chiefs say they will be notified if any do close and they will keep the council website wigan.gov.uk updated.
A spokesman said: “No schools have yet told us they have already decided to close tomorrow because of the expected bad weather.
“We have reminded them all that they must inform the council if they are closing so the message can be put on our website.
“It will be updated automatically so I suggest you keep checking the home page for updates.
“The decision to close is a matter for schools.
“I expect all will be monitoring the weather reports and as such can be considered to be “on stand-by”.
HEALTH AND WELL-BEING
Charities and health chiefs are urging people to be prepared for the adverse weather by checking on elderly and vulnerbale neighbours and stocking up on medicines and prescriptions.
John McArdle, from the Wigan branch of Age UK said: “We would urge anybody who knows of elderly residents living close by to keep an eye on them.
“If you can do a few little things for them it would mean a lot.
“For instance if you are clearing snow off your driveway or path, why ot do your neighbours’ for them too so they do not slip on any ice.”
Dr Tim Dalton, local GP and Chair of Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (WBCCG) said:
“Making sure you stock up on some essentials that can help you and your family to cope with common complaints such as colds, coughs, stomach upsets, flu and earache, will mean that you are better prepared.
“It will also mean that A&E, 999 and GP services have more time to deal with serious and life-threatening conditions, such as heart-attacks, strokes, breathing problems and serious accidents.”