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13 November 2014

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You are in: Tees > Nature > Nature Features > Redcar RNLI weather blog

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Redcar RNLI weather blog

Redcar's lifeboat volunteers have started a weekly blog on BBC Tees, looking at the changing weather and how it affects them, the town and, most importantly, their work.

Walkers brave the cold.

Walkers brave the cold.

Sunday 7 December noon

It snowed on Thursday - and it seemed to a few like the end of the world was
nigh. The whole region was affected to a greater or lesser extent.

As is often the case, Redcar's microclimate protected the town from the worst of
the weather. Elsewhere the roads ground to a standstill, school children were sent home and for some there was the perfect excuse for a "duvet day".

Lifeboat crews, on the other hand, never look for excuses - they are on call whatever the weather. And it's often during bad weather that their services are required. With the exception of a few lifeboat stations - on the Humber estuary and on the River Thames - lifeboat stations are not normally manned. Instead, the volunteer crew go about their daily routine and if there is an emergency they are bleeped to summon them to the lifeboat. They may be at work, at home, or doing any of the every-day things most people take for granted. Always in the back of a crewmember's mind is the thought that their pager will bleep. A half-painted wall or half-eaten meal becomes an inevitable part of life in the RNLI.

So on days like Thursday, while the snow covered roads are a reason for most people to not venture out, they are a challenge to our crew. They are thinking about how they would battle their way to the lifeboat station, planning routes and alternative routes, keeping their car free of snow and frost so that's it's ready for the road at a moment's notice. It is not unusual for crewmembers to make their way to the station and set up camp there for a few hours, hoping to save a few vital minutes if the lifeboats have to launch.

Fortunately, for most of the week, it's been too cold or too windy for many to venture out on the sea. Most fishermen have brought their pots ashore and it was only this morning that conditions showed enough improvement for the boats to launch and for people to enjoy a crisp stroll along the beach.

It's not just bad weather that can get in the way of crew trying to reach the lifeboat station. During the height of summer, hot sunny days mean the seaside is a natural magnet for thousands of people seeking respite from the high temperatures seen inland. In Victorian times Redcar was a thriving resort and hundreds of people at a time would arrive by train from all over the north of England and stream towards the beach. Now, the common  mode of transport is the car. And that means busy roads, which in turn means it can be just as difficult as when there is deep snow to get to the lifeboat station when an emergency is called.

The Atlantic charts show that northerly winds will dominate the early part of the week, meaning more cold and wet weather heading this way. Things should be drier towards the weekend as the winds move round to a south-westerly point, but it doesn't look like it will get much warmer.

Sandpiper in the snow.

Sandpiper in the snow.

Sunday 30 November 2pm

The week started with an early morning call to the lifeboat station. It wasn't an emergency, but it did involve the weather!

Answering an SOS from BBC Tees radio, by 7am last Monday morning I was on the sea front outside the lifeboat station waiting for the arrival of the radio car, with Andrea MacMillan at the helm. The weather over the weekend had been very wintry, and it was that which prompted the request to do an interview. Strong onshore winds from the north brought snow along the whole stretch of the coast. The snow lay overnight so that by the next morning Huntcliff was shrouded in a white coat, making it almost indistinct from the white surf that was pounding the shore at Saltburn. The sandpipers who frequent the lifeboat station slipway seemed a bit confused by the fact that everything had become monochrome.

The grey skys and white beach seemed to be a puzzle to them as they foraged for food. The lifebelt at the top of the slipway gave a small dash of colour against the snow-laden sky. None of the fishing boats were out. Instead they seemed to be huddled together with their backs to the sea, almost like penguins seeking mutual shelter from a blizzard.

The radio interview went OK The wind howled round the tall mast of the radio car, adding to the atmosphere. Not that it needed any help. The snow was gone but it was still bitterly cold on Monday morning and the sea was roaring even though it was low tide. The interview gave us the chance to put some essential sea safety messages across. Things can go wrong at sea at any time of the year but when it happens in weather like we had just had, things are much more dangerous for the rescuer and the rescued.

Typically for this part of the world, within a couple of days the weather had flipped back to give us some relatively mild days with some bonny sunsets. The pastel shades created by the setting sun were reminiscent of a Turner watercolour. As always there was a sting in the tail. Over the start of the weekend a cold, foggy night meant that Saturday started with a sharp frost and poor visibility. Thank goodness Father Christmas has radar on his sleigh - and he was right on time when he arrived to meet the children in the lifeboat station in a specially prepared grotto in the crew training

The forecast shows a jumble of pressure systems over the coming week with one thing in common - they all take a spin over the Arctic before heading our way. It looks like there will be a mixture of rain and snow, with the common factor being it will be very cold.

last updated: 08/12/2008 at 10:35
created: 22/09/2008

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