UK weather: snow and ice warnings cause travel disruption

Sarah Marsh and Josh Halliday
A woman walks through the snow in the village of Marsden, east of Manchester. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Britain faced further travel disruption on Monday as the “mini beast from the east” brought snow and ice to large areas of the UK overnight.

Parts of Devon and south-west England were expected to bear the brunt of the freeze on Monday, with up to 30cm of snow in some parts of the region compared with up to 10cm for the rest of Britain.

Highways England closed the A30 in both directions between junction 31 of the M5 and the A38 in Bodmin due to what police described as conditions “changing rapidly from passable to impossible”.

Eight-two people were forced to take shelter in a school after becoming stuck on a 64-mile stretch of the A30. They were moved to a rest centre at Okehampton College at the north side of Dartmoor.

Meanwhile Devon County Council confirmed the closure of dozens of schools on Monday, while train services were also said to be affected.

It comes after hundreds of flights were cancelled and sports events called off as plummeting temperatures cast a blanket of snow across the UK on Sunday, with further “disruptive snowfall” overnight.

UK weather warning

Mark Wilson, a Met Office meteorologist, said: “It’s going to be a very, very cold start, with a widespread frost and ice around as well.”

The Highways Agency urged motorists everywhere to drive with caution on Monday and pack snow kits of blankets, food, water and a shovel in areas of heavy snowfall.

Met Office forecasters said temperatures were expected to return to more typical March conditions by Tuesday, bringing an end to the unseasonably cold spring.

While large parts of Britain had snow on Sunday, there was disruption for many commuters needing to catch flights or trains. Hundreds of flights were cancelled at airports across Britain, including 146 at Heathrow alone, as runways were covered in snow. Gatwick airport apologised for the disruption and urged travellers to check the situation with their airline.

In Cornwall, an Asda manager said some stores were running low on bread and milk as customers were panic-buying after the original “beast from the east” saw shelves being cleared of groceries earlier this month.

In Cumbria, mountain rescue teams were called to help 15 people stuck in a cafe near Kirkby Stephen while an ambulance crew struggled to reach patients in Langdale, a valley in the heart of the Lake District national park.

A stranded coach on Blackstone Edge near Littleborough in Greater Manchester. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

The weather brought traffic to a standstill on some of the country’s busiest roads on Sunday, including the M62 in Yorkshire.

Three snowploughs were dispatched to the motorway as Greater Manchester police’s traffic unit described conditions as a “little bit wild” at Saddleworth Moor in Yorkshire, the highest point of any motorway in Britain.

Officers from Lincolnshire police spent seven hours digging out 35 stranded vehicles after they became stuck in snowdrifts on the A158 near Edlington overnight on Saturday.

Snowfall also caused disruption across parts of Ireland, with an orange snow-ice warning extended to 6pm for seven counties, including Dublin.

Some bus routes in the Irish capital were curtailed due to the weather and Bus Éireann said there was disruption to services in the eastern region.

The snowfall has led to the cancellation of a number of events to mark the St Patrick’s bank holiday weekend, including the Big Day Out event in Merrion Square in Dublin.

In Wicklow, there were reports of snowdrifts of up to 90cm, the local council said.

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government said all relevant agencies had severe weather emergency plans in place.

Residents of coastal homes in Hemsby, Norfolk, were evacuated over fears the properties were at risk of coastal erosion as the area braced for snow and ice overnight. The county is covered by a yellow weather warning issued by the Met Office and it is thought that five buildings were at risk.

One resident, Stephen Chadwick, described how a cliff gave way. Speaking to BBC News, he said: “I woke up this morning, had a cup of coffee at 7.30 ... it was like an earthquake and the cliff just went.”

Hemsby has been vulnerable to coastal erosion before. During a tidal surge in 2013 five bungalows fell into the water as the high tide eroded the cliff below.

Building control surveyors on Hemsby beach in front of houses that have been evacuated. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

The Met Office has issued a less severe yellow warning for Monday, noting that ice was likely on roads, pavements and cycle paths.

“This increases the risk of accidents, as well as injuries due to falls. This warning has been updated to remove much of Scotland (apart from the south-east) and parts of Northern Ireland, whilst it has been extended to cover remaining parts of eastern England and the extreme south-west,” a statement on the Met Office website read.

Richard Leonard, Highways England’s head of road safety, said: “Our gritter drivers will be out treating our roads around the clock but it is still important to drive to the conditions when snow is forecast.

“Make sure you keep your distance and reduce your speed if you need to travel because, even in conditions that seem normal and when the snow is not settling, it can be slippery if ice patches have formed, or where fresh salt has not been worked into the carriageway.”