Heavy snow disrupts travel on coldest day in UK for seven years

Emergency services inundated with calls as motorists are stranded in vehicles

Cars stuck in the snow on the A30.
 Cars stuck in the snow on the A30 in south-west England. Photograph: @stormchaserMatt/PA

Travel was disrupted, householders suffered power cuts and schools were shut as heavy snow swept across the UK on the coldest day for seven years.

Motorists were stranded in vehicles and trains and planes were delayed or cancelled. Emergency services up and down the UK said they were being inundated and called on people to only travel if they needed to.

Friday is also forecast to be very cold, with the Met office predicting highs of 3C in London and 2C in Edinburgh. Snow is forecast across the south, heavy in parts, from Cardiff to London, stretching right across to Chelmsford, Rochester and Canterbury. In the north, snow is forecast in York and Newcastle and on parts of the east coast.

The coldest spot on Thursday was Braemar in north-east Scotland, where residents shivered in temperatures of –14.4C (6.1F), the Met Office said – the lowest in the UK since 2012, when it reached –15.6C (3.9F) at Holbeach in Lincolnshire.

An amber severe weather warning – meaning a potential risk to life and property – was in place for parts of south England and Wales on Thursday, with the Met Office predicting heavy snow falls could cut off communities, especially on high ground. South Western Railway has already warned passengers that trains may be cancelled on Friday morning while work is done to check and clear the tracks. British Airways said it would cancel some short-haul flights on Friday due to the adverse weather conditions.

A ice cream van in the snow in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.
A ice cream van in the snow in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Snow led to the cancellation of some sporting events, including race meetings at Fakenham in Norfolk and Wincanton in South Somerset.

By mid-afternoon on Thursday, the snow had hit the south-west. Devon and Cornwall police said it was causing disruption on the A30 near Jamaica Inn at Bolventor. As darkness fell about 100 vehicles were trapped on the same road at Temple on Bodmin Moor, where the Met Office said snow was up to 12cm deep. There were also reports of cars trapped on the A38, A39 and A380. Police advised trapped motorists to stay in their vehicle

One flood alert was issued for the south Devon coast from Start Point to Dawlish Warren, and Torquay seafront was shut because of high tides and stormy conditions. About 400 students were stranded at Callywith College in Bodmin, Cornwall. Principal Mark Wardle said buses to transport students had not been able to get to the sixth-form college, but catering staff were providing students with sausages, chips and beans.

Highways England advised people to avoid roads including the M5 in the south-west and the A303, where some motorists became trapped a year ago. It had 25 snowblowers ready to clear snow from motorways and major A roads.

Dartmoor national park closed some roads because of ice and advised drivers to avoid the area. Sgt Olly Taylor, lead investigator for fatal road crashes in Devon and Cornwall, said: “Please think about whether your journey is really essential. Emergency services are likely to be busy.”

Cars stuck in the snow on the A30 near Newquay.
Cars stuck in the snow on the A30 near Newquay. Photograph: Alexandra Jane Fox/PA

The AA advised motorists to carry a winter survival kit containing items such as an ice scraper, de-icer and a blanket. A spokesman said: “People should also take it slow, as stopping distances are 10 times longer. Gentle manoeuvres are the key to safe driving in ice and snow.”

In Wales, Dyfed-Powys police asked for people to think twice before contacting the force. Head of specialist operations, Supt Craig Templeton, said: “We have been busy planning for the adverse weather so we can continue to serve our communities in the way they expect.

Traffic officers prepare to pull a van out of a ditch off the A6 near the village of Shap in Cumbria, UK.
Traffic officers prepare to pull a van out of a ditch off the A6 near the village of Shap in Cumbria, UK. Photograph: Owen Humphreys/PA

“To help us do this, we are asking the public to consider their options before contacting us, as in some cases, other organisations may be better placed to help you. For example, if you are calling about a tree or power/telephone pole that is down, you should only call us to report this if there is a significant risk to others, or there has been a collision and someone is injured.”

In Caerphilly, South Wales, a gritting truck overturned on ice, despite the road being gritted three times in one day.

Councillor Sean Morgan, cabinet member for highways, said: “This was a very experienced driver, but between the third and fourth gritting treatments the hill had iced over and this demonstrates that road surfaces can still be dangerous, even when gritted.”

On Wednesday night, all four parts of the UK set new records for the 2018-19 winter with Sennybridge, Powys, dropping to -9.3C (15.3F), Katesbridge in Northern Ireland falling to -8.2C (17.2F) and Redesdale Camp, Northumberland, recording temperatures of -10.5C (13.1FF).

The Met Office said the sleet and snow would ease in the south on Friday but there could be more wintry showers, especially in the north and east. Mark Wilson, a Met Office forecaster, said the cold temperatures were due to stick around: “Saturday night into Sunday could also be very cold.


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