Cumbria Police has declared a major incident because of heavy snowfall on the county’s roads and said people should only travel where necessary.
The force said a multi-agency response was ongoing on Saturday evening to “minimise the challenges that heavy snowfall is continuing to have on the county’s road network”.
Cumbria Police said the M6 southbound between J38 and J37 was blocked due to jackknifed lorries and that the A595 between Millom and Furness was impassable.
National Highways said it was also dealing with a large number of stranded vehicles on Saturday evening, particularly on the M6 between J38 and J40.
A multi-agency response is ongoing to minimise the challenges that heavy snowfall is continuing to have on the county’s road network.
Agencies are aware of multiple reports of vehicles stuck in traffic in the South Lakes area.
— Cumbria Police (@Cumbriapolice) December 2, 2023
Earlier on Saturday, Cumbria Police said it was aware of multiple reports of vehicles stuck in traffic in the South Lakes area, particularly in the Bowness and Grizedale areas, because of snow.
Superintendent Andy Wilkinson said: “Agencies across Cumbria are working together in response to the impact that heavy snowfall is continuing to have on the county’s roads.
“We are working at pace, to help clear roads so those currently affected can get moving.
“I would urge anybody considering travelling in Cumbria tonight, to only do so if necessary. The cold temperatures forecast will make road conditions even more difficult.”
The Met Office had issued an amber warning for snow in Cumbria throughout Saturday, saying 10-15cm of snow is possible in some areas before showers begin to ease overnight.
The weather service added there was a “good chance that some rural communities could become cut off” and power cuts were likely, with the potential for other services, such as mobile phone coverage, to be affected.
It has also issued a yellow warning for ice from midnight until 11am on Sunday in Cumbria and north Lancashire, stating that a “few snow flurries may continue into the early hours of Sunday, but the main hazard will be refreezing of any melted snow, or freezing of lying snow”.
Ambleside resident Harrison Ward said the snow was the heaviest he had seen during eight years of living in the Cumbrian town, adding that lots of people had abandoned their vehicles on Saturday as they “tried to find refuge”.
Mr Ward, who works as an outdoor cook, told the PA news agency: “It really feels like you’re walking through the Alps or some ski resort at the moment.”
He added: “Once a few cars have stopped or crashed or been abandoned, then it all comes to a halt.
“So we’ve seen complete gridlock through the town with lots of wheel spinning going on – there’s a real smell of burnt clutches in the air.
“Some vehicles moved about 100 metres in an hour’s time.”
One driver said they were stuck between Ambleside and Windermere for more than five hours on Saturday.
The driver, who wished to remain anonymous, told the PA news agency: “We’ve had no communication from any of the authorities and we’ve not seen a single gritter trying to free anyone.”
They added: “My wife and four-year-old had to walk two miles – there were cars driving on the wrong side of the road that caused more jams.”
Met Office chief meteorologist Jason Kelly said: “Snow could be heavy at times across Cumbria with the odd rumble of thunder… 10-15cm of snow is possible before showers begin to ease overnight.
“A low pressure system will bring less cold but more unsettled weather for southern parts of the UK from tonight onwards, although northern areas will continue (to be) cold with wintry showers and sharp overnight frosts.
“Many areas of England and Wales can then expect spells of rain for the start of next week, which could be heavy at times with a risk of flooding. Some higher hills across parts of North Wales and northern England could see further snow.”
The weather service said Aberdeenshire, Moray and Highland regions of Scotland were likely to see the lowest temperatures on Saturday night, with minus 12C possible in some valleys in these regions.
The Met Office has also issued a yellow weather warning for snow and ice from 6pm on Saturday to 12pm on Sunday covering much of the Midlands, Yorkshire, the north east and north west of England, and north and central Wales.
The weather service said that while not everywhere will see accumulating snow, some places are likely to see 1-3cm, with 5-10cm possible over some hills and mountains in Wales, the Peak District and South Pennines.
The forecaster said there will probably be icy patches on untreated roads, pavements and cycle paths, resulting in “some injuries from slips and falls on icy surfaces”.
It warned that some roads and railways are likely to be affected, with longer journey times by road, bus and train.
⚠️⚠️ Amber weather warning issued ⚠️⚠️
Snow across much of Cumbria
NOW until midnight tonight
Latest info 👉 https://t.co/QwDLMfRBfs
— Met Office (@metoffice) December 2, 2023
In Wales, the A470 was closed between Llechwedd, Blaenau Ffestiniog, towards the Crimea Pass due to the weather conditions on Saturday afternoon as North Wales Police told drivers to avoid the area.
The Met Office has also issued a yellow weather warning of ice from midnight until 8am on Sunday for London, the East of England, the West Midlands and parts of South Wales.
The weather service warned that areas of rain or sleet falling on frozen surfaces may lead to icy conditions and some injuries may result from slips and falls.
It added: “Rain or sleet is expected to spread from west to east across the area overnight, falling on to frozen surfaces and leading to icy patches, perhaps even where treatment has been applied.”
Glasgow Airport temporarily suspended all flights on Saturday morning, with the transport hub posting on X, formerly Twitter, at 7.24am that it was doing so because of “heavier than forecast snow”.
At 10.20am, the airport posted: “Our runway is now fully operational again and we are working with our airline partners and their handlers to resume flight schedules.”
It’s not just us who feel the cold, our pets can struggle during the winter months too.
— Met Office (@metoffice) December 2, 2023
The UK Health Security Agency and the Met Office have issued amber cold health alerts in five regions – the East Midlands, West Midlands, North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber – until December 5, meaning “cold weather impacts are likely to be felt across the whole health service for an extended period of time”.