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UK weather: Storm Larisa batters country with motorists stranded overnight

Storm Larisa battered parts of the UK, with gales and blizzards causing widespread travel disruption and the closure of hundreds of schools.

Motorists on the M62 were stranded overnight with mountain rescue teams coming to the aid of some drivers.

On the rail network there were widespread cancellations of commuter trains between Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, York and Liverpool because of the weather. Trains were suspended between Manchester and Sheffield because of a fallen tree.

At airports there were numerous flight delays and cancellations with runways closed to clear the snow.

The Met Office had issued a number of amber weather warnings predicting the blizzards and heavy snow. Those have now passed and the snow will clear but a number of yellow warnings about hazardous icy conditions remain in place across Wales, Northern Ireland, the Midlands and north of England. In the north and west of Scotland a warning of snow and ice is in place until 9am on Saturday.

The Met Office anticipates a return to colder conditions late next Monday and early on Tuesday.

Conditions on the M62 between Manchester and Leeds were particularly difficult with the chaos made worse by the actions of drivers, police said.

National Highways, the government-owned organisation that oversees England’s motorways and major A roads, indicated too many drivers ignored weather warnings.

The operational control director, Andrew Page-Dove, told PA Media: “I think the volume of the traffic speaks for itself, particularly this morning. The M62 was queued back to Manchester.”

He added that some drivers ignored closed lane signs, which resulted in them getting stuck and the situation becoming “exacerbated”.

A number of vehicles heading east over the Pennines were stranded overnight by heavy snow. At one point congestion between Rochdale and Saddleworth stretched for 8 miles with mountain rescue teams coming to the aid of some.

Richard McCarthy, a video journalist, was travelling from Manchester after covering Manchester United’s Europa League match on Thursday night. “I saw lots of abandoned sports cars, one Jaguar left on the road with a shovel stuck in the ground next to it and no driver,” he said. “There were lots of lorries losing momentum and getting stuck.”

Emma Hamilton, who works for the NHS and is from Yorkshire, said she had been stuck for 8 hours travelling from Manchester.

“There’s lorries broken down all over the road across all lanes. Drivers are having to work out themselves how to go round them. Sort of bobbing and weaving round them. It honestly feels neverending at this point,” she said.

Greater Manchester police said ploughing and gritting on the motorway was “severely delayed” by motorists illegally using the hard shoulder and closed lanes. The RAC said the situation was made worse by drivers overtaking other vehicles and getting stuck in fresh snow.

In Staffordshire the army was helping police, ambulance and fire services to rescue drivers stuck in deep snow on the A53 and the A523 near Leek.

The assistant chief constable Rebecca Riggs urged the public not to make any journeys unless absolutely necessary. “Road conditions in some areas pose a serious safety risk and increasing snowfall is making visibility a major issue.”

The train operator Merseyrail said its services would not start until 10am and TransPennine Express and Northern said they were cancelling a number of services because of the severe weather.

Northern said its problems included train crew not being able to get to work at Buxton and no service between New Mills in Derbyshire and Sheffield because of trees on the line.

East Midlands airport closed its runway for about three hours from 5am because of heavy overnight snowfall.

Flights were delayed at Birmingham airport after its runway was closed for an hour to clear it of heavy snow. It warned of further delays as ground crews de-iced the backup aircraft.

At John Lennon airport in Liverpool most flights were delayed because of the weather and there were also delays and cancellations at Bristol airport and Leeds Bradford.

There were widespread school closures because of the snow. More than 200 were shut in Wales and over 100 in Northern Ireland. There were numerous closures in South, North and West Yorkshire, the east and West Midlands, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, Cheshire and County Durham.

The filming of the ITV soap opera Emmerdale was cancelled on Friday due to the heavy snowfall. The show’s set is on the Harewood estate in West Yorkshire.

The Met Office said the deepest snow from its observation sites was 27cm (10.6 in) at Capel Curig in Gwynedd. There was 16cm at Lake Vyrnwy in Powys, and 14cm at Bingley in West Yorkshire and the same at Altnaharra in the Highlands.

Buxton Weather Watch responded to the Met Office tweet by saying Harpur Hill, a village on the edge of Buxton, had snow at least 30cm deep.

The Met Office meteorologist Jonathan Vautrey said Storm Larisa, named by the French weather service, was responsible for bringing rain and snow to the UK.

The weather is expected to clear by the end of Friday, before being replaced by another low pressure system, leading to a further yellow snow and ice warning for much of northern England and Scotland from 3pm on Saturday to 6am on Sunday.