Peter-brr-ough: Record lows hit city as big freeze bites

Ice hockey players skate on a frozen Whittlesey Wash, after temperatures plummeted to a record low in Peterborough of -13.5C. Photo: Alan Storer/Peterborough ET (METP-11-02-12AS216)#
Ice hockey players skate on a frozen Whittlesey Wash, after temperatures plummeted to a record low in Peterborough of -13.5C. Photo: Alan Storer/Peterborough ET (METP-11-02-12AS216)#
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RECORD-breaking lows turned Peterborough into Peter-brr-ough this weekend as arctic conditions gripped the area.

Temperatures nationwide fell to their lowest since December 2010 on Friday night into Saturday morning, with thermometers reaching minus 13.5C at the MET Office’s nearest station to the city, based in Wittering.

The Arctic conditions kept the emergency services busy, in particular.

A police spokeswoman said: “Between midnight and midday yesterday there were 40 collisions reported across the county, of which nine did not require police assistance.

“In total, 34 of the collisions occurred in the southern end of the county – 30 on major routes. Investigations into the cause of the collisions are now underway.”

County firefighters also said they attended roughly 30 incidents yesterday, with all but one being false alarms.

The other one was when crews from Cambridge attended a two-vehicle collision on the A14 westbound at 7.48am. No one was trapped.

From Friday at 4pm until 2.30pm on Sunday, the East of England Ambulance Service had 22 calls relating to collisions, with three in Peterborough.

Four of the total involved casualties needing to be taken to hospital for further treatment, though none in the city.

This compared to 17 collisions during the same time period over the last weekend which was unaffected by wintry weather, January 27 and 29.

A spokeswoman said: “The cold snap appears to be easing but we would still advise drivers to be cautious on the roads and drive with extra care as icy patches still are an issue.”

The fire service urged residents to brush up on their household plumbing know-how after receiving a large number of calls about burst water pipes.

A spokeswoman said: “Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service would like to remind residents that it is unable to fix pipes or pump water out of homes. Instead, people should ring a plumber. The only time it would be suitable to dial 999 if there was a life risk. We strongly recommend that people know where to locate and how to isolate their water supplies so we don’t have to divert valuable resources from our primary function, which is to fight fires and respond to other life-threatening emergencies.”

There were also a spate of false alarms as condensation triggered smoke detectors across the region.

Anglian Water, also on Saturday, recorded a 500 per cent increase in the number of calls on what would be expected for the same weekend in the year, with 3,000 from across the region being logged by mid-afternoon.

However, again, there was little the firm could do to help, with most of the faults stemming from pipes inside the house, not its own.

John Clare, spokesman said: “The vast majority of people calling are calling in with no water, but the problem is with their own domestic pipes which is something we can do nothing about.”

Mr Clare advised householders to visit its website,, for advice on frozen or burst water pipes.

Peterborough United’s clash against West Ham was among the high-profile sporting casualties of the cold, despite a large-scale effort from supporters to prepare the pitch for Saturday’s game.

Hundreds of fans, armed with shovels, attended the London Road ground on Saturday morning and in sub-zero conditions helped clear the pitch in a couple of hours.

It was not enough, however, to save the game from cancellation, but chief executive Bob Symns thanked supporters for a “magnificent effort”.

Local weather records broken

LOCAL weather followers saw records shatter on Friday night.

Peterborough Weather Watch, based at Park Farm, in Stanground, tracked temperatures to minus 12.9C – smashing its previous record of minus 8.7C from December 2010.

Founder Trev Robbins-Pratt, who has been recording temperatures since October 2005, said: “I was absolutely gobsmacked when it got down to minus 12.9C.

“I never through I would see it that low.”

Mr Robbins-Pratt said the extreme lows were driven by clear skies during the night, but also the week’s earlier snowfall which had prevented ground temperatures rising during the previous day.

He said he was now searching other data sources to find the last time when temperatures fell so low in and around Peterborough.

But he said he believed it was the coldest since at least the winter of 1963.

Holbeach is UK’s cold capital at -15.6C

AS MERCURY gauges plummeted across the UK on Friday night, nowhere was the big freeze more keenly felt than in Holbeach, Lincolnshire.

Residents in the Fenland market town suffered this winter’s lowest temperature so far – a withering minus 15.6C.

It outstripped other areas in the East Midlands and East of England, also turning Arctic overnight.

Scampton, also in Lincolnshire, saw temperatures fall to minus 14.5C, while in Cambridge they reached minus 14.2C.

At the centuries’ old coaching inn The Horse and Groom, in High Street, Holbeach, the extreme temperatures left a thin layer of ice on the inside of the windows – a first for owner Nick Williams (43) in almost eight years at the establishment. He said: “This morning we had ice on the inside of the glass, even with the central heating on 24/7. I thought it was on the outside until I touched it!”

While the extreme temperatures turned trees white with a picturesque air frost, South Holland District Council member for Holbeach Town Francis Biggadike (78) spoke of colder winters still.

He said: “At my age, I have experience it before. I was around in the 1940s when we used to sit in overcoats in school because it was wartime and there was no coke for the boiler.”

He spoke of the winter of 1947, which lays claim to the coldest February temperature on record of minus 20.6C, and remembered snow drifts almost as high as telegraph poles. He said: “Having lived through that I don’t get too excited about a night like Saturday night.”