Arctic weather shuts off main roads and villages

December 20, 2010 | by | 0 Comments

The South West of England was feeling the cold today as temperatures plunged to a chilly -18 degrees – with some residents waking up to 30cm of snow.

Arctic weather shuts off main roads and villages

Main roads and villages were shut off while gritters battled against the elements to make the roads safe and police issued weathers warnings telling motorists not to drive.

IN PICTURES: THE SOUTH WEST’S BIG FREEZE

North Devon and Cornwall were the worst hit counties of the region but the weather disruption was felt by travellers and residents across the whole of the South West.

Some villagers in Bovey Tracy, North Devon, took to the streets on snowboards to get around – while others needed tractors to collect vital supplies.

Andrew Hill, 48 was unable to work in Newton Abbott as his home town of Haytor Vale, Devon, was snowed in.

The married hairdresser owner managed to walk to his local pub, The Rock Inn, in the small hamlet, where he enjoyed lunch and warm drinks with other residents.

He said: ”We had 18 inches of snow this morning. It started at about 3am. It is all fluffy and powdery now, it looks just like a ski resort.

”I haven’t seen anyone skiing yet but there is definitely enough snow for them to, it’s really thick.

”The only way to get around here is a tractor or a very serious 4 x 4 and most people don’t have those so they can’t get out.

”Some people have managed to get into work by being driven part of the way and walking the rest, which is dedication for you.

”We have enough food and supplies here at the moment and everyone is feeling very festive. It’s like the front of a Christmas card.”

A worker from The Rock Inn added: ”It is quite bad. The only mode of transport at the moment is 4 x 4 if people have to get out.

”We have had 30 cancellations today, for Christmas lunches and guests who were booked to stay in overnight.”

Grit supplies in the South West luckily remained high today, as councils revealed they had dramatically increased their demand.

Gloucestershire County Council had 7,500 tonnes stored, while Wiltshire County Council – who doubled their reserves from 2009 – had 8,000 tonnes left.

Somerset County Council have been forced to used 180 tonnes of grit every night – double the 90 tonnes usually used during winter cold spells.

The authority has just 1,250 tonnes of salt left but is expecting a delivery of 600 tonnes later this week and has also asked for an extra 3,000 tonnes.

South West residents claimed the gritting had been ”lamentable” across the region, with big towns such being branded ”no go” zones.

Ian Mean, editor of the Gloucester Citizen, slammed the county council for not making enough roads in the town safe.

He said: ”While I understand the pressures on the county council’s Highways Department, it surely cannot be right that a town as important as Cheltenham is a virtual no go area because of iced up roads.”

Arctic weather shuts off main roads and villages

One Gloucestershire resident raged: ”The roads are just terrible. There is no sign of grit on any major route, cars struggling to stop, roundabouts a complete hazard.”

Travellers hoping to use trains and planes were also left disappointed – as all flights from Exeter Airport were cancelled, along with some flights at Birmingham airport.

Hundreds of Birmingham passengers had their flights delayed or cancelled, while the majority of planes at Bristol Airport managed to depart safely.

Flights at Plymouth airport were cancelled early in the morning and buses in the city also saw huge disruptions.

South West trains also cancelled dozens of services and operated an emergency timetable.

Services from Bristol to Taunton and Salisbury were suspended for most of the day.

Bus provider Stagecoach was unable to operate in mid Devon – leaving thousands unable to go to school or work – and cancelled 28 routes across Cirencester, Swindon and Gloucester.

Frustrated drivers stuck reported motorways ”like ice rinks” as they queued in their hundreds along vital routes blocked by snow and accidents.

The M5 had at least one lane southbound closed for much of the day from junction 15 at Bristol to Junction 31 at Exminster.

RAC spokesman Alan Wilcock warned motorists to stay off the roads and said there were a number of gritted main roads that drivers could use.

He said: ”It’s important that you stay on the main treated roads wherever possible.

”It may be tempting to take a shortcut to beat the traffic but it’s also likely to be far more treacherous.”

A spokeswoman for the Met Office said there had been up to 30cm of snow in some areas of the South West, such as Dunkeswell in North Devon.

Temperatures also dipped to -18 in Pershore, Worcs., while one of the warmest readings was a bitter -4.9 degrees Celsius in Bristol at midday yesterday (Mon).

The spokeswoman added: ”We have seen the worst of the snow. The problems we are now going to see will be with the icy conditions, especially on the roads.

”The ice will remain until at least Wednesday or Thursday for Cornwall and Devon but the risk of snow has gone, although some places may see a little more.

”There will also be freezing fog around.”

IN PICTURES: THE SOUTH WEST’S BIG FREEZE

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