A WEATHER warning has been issued as temperatures are expected to plummet this weekend.
The Met Office says the cold snap could put vulnerable people at risk and cause disruption.
The forecast comes just a week after Hartlepool MP Iain Wright told of his fears that people cannot afford to heat their homes.
The icy blast is expected to extend into the start of next week with temperatures averaging at just 2C and plummeting below zero at night.
The average for Hartlepool at this time of year should be around 7C but an unseasonably warm spell has seen thermometers hit up to 11C with little in the way of snow or ice.
A spokeswoman for the Met Office said: “We have had no sustained cold spell this winter and temperatures in general have been above normal.
“The weather has been brought to us in westerly winds, causing it to be wet and windy. What is happening this week is an area of high pressure is on the way, bringing cold conditions from the south east.
“It will be cold and frosty at night but settled with sunshine and dry conditions.”
The Met Office has issued a Level 2 alert for the weekend.
The warning states it is “an important stage for social and healthcare services who will be working to ensure readiness and swift action to reduce harm from a potential period of cold weather”.
It adds: “Cold weather can be dangerous, especially for the very young, very old or those with chronic diseases.”
The Hartlepool Mail reported just last week how Mr Wright fears vulnerable people could die from the cold because they can’t afford to pay their heating bills.
Mr Wright says he has seen a three-fold increase in people seeking help because they are worried about rising fuel costs.
And he urged those at risk in the tough economic climate not to suffer in silence because they can get help.
Each year scores more people die in Hartlepool during the winter months compared to other seasons.
The latest NHS figures show that between 2006 and 2009, there were an average of 63 excess winter deaths in the town per year, which is a huge rise on the average of 36 deaths recorded between 2005 and 2008.
People can get help from the Government and gas and electricity companies to save the cost of energy through insulation schemes or by fixing prices.
Mr Wright said: “I would urge people not to suffer in silence.
“If they have any concerns about being able to keep warm this winter, then speak to me of their energy company to see what’s available out there.”
People can contact Mr Wright’s constituency office, in the town’s South Road, on (01429) 224403.
Advice and information about how cold weather can effect health is available at www.nhs.uk.
If you are concerned about your health or somebody you care for, ring NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or visit www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk or your local pharmacist.
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