Drivers 'stuck in snow for 19 hours' and 'rationing food and water', as some abandon cars in freezing temperatures

3 December 2023, 10:50 | Updated: 3 December 2023, 13:45

Temperatures have plummeted in Britain
Temperatures have plummeted in Britain. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Kit Heren

Drivers have told of being stuck on snowy roads for as long as 19 hours, as temperatures dropped below zero and much of the UK remained in the grip of a wintry blast.

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Much of northern England, Scotland, Wales and the Midlands have been hit with snow this weekend, with Cumbria in the north-west getting 15cm in places.

The snowfall caused major disruption, with Cumbria Police urging people not to travel to the area on Sunday because of snow and icy roads, as it declared a major incident.

Some 2,500 people were left without electricity in the wintry blast.

Many drivers got stuck in slow-moving traffic because of the snow, with one man claiming to have missed a family wedding and been in the car for 19 hours.

The Met Office had issued an amber warning for snow in Cumbria throughout Saturday, saying 10-15cm of snow was possible in some areas before showers begin to ease overnight.

Read more: Snow chaos across UK as icy blasts causes widespread disruption, as Manchester United's flight to Newcastle axed

Read more: UK snow: Cold health alerts issued as snow blankets parts of UK

Fresh snow at Seaton Sluice in Northumberland on Sunday
Fresh snow at Seaton Sluice in Northumberland on Sunday. Picture: Alamy

Ant Brett told the BBC from his car: "It's fair to say I didn't make it. The cars here haven't had any water or food supplies. I'm down to my last bit of water and having to ration it.

"I know the emergency services are busy but we've just been left here without help."

Harrison Ward said the snow was the heaviest he had seen during eight years of living in the Cumbrian town of Ambleside. He said that lots of people had abandoned their vehicles on Saturday as they "tried to find refuge".

Mr Ward said: "It really feels like you're walking through the Alps or some ski resort at the moment."

People ride sledges besides the beach huts at Blyth in Northumberland
People ride sledges besides the beach huts at Blyth in Northumberland. Picture: Alamy

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."

Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service said its staff had been working through the night to help get people free. They said they were using 4 x 4 vehicles to help "vulnerable people stuck in the snow as required".

In a post on social media, Cumbria Police said on Saturday: "A yellow weather warning for ice is in place for tomorrow morning which will have a continued impact on Cumbria's roads.

A family walk through a Christmas tree farm in Leicestershire
A family walk through a Christmas tree farm in Leicestershire. Picture: Getty

"We would also urge people not to travel to the county tomorrow unless necessary."

Cumbria Police said the M6 southbound between J38 and J37 was blocked on Saturday 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.

Cumbria Police issued a number of further road closures and delay warnings just after midnight on Sunday, with the A591 Windermere Road (Plumgarth Roundabout, Kendal) to Wythburn and A5092 between Whicham and Greenodd impassable due to heavy snowbanks and frozen conditions.

Police urged residents to stay indoors and to check the traffic map on the Cumbria Police website if travel is needed.

Heavy fog and mist begins to roll in over east London with Canary Wharf business park buildings visible over the Thames
Heavy fog and mist begins to roll in over east London with Canary Wharf business park buildings visible over the Thames. Picture: Alamy

A number of local community venues also opened to provide support to those impacted by the heavy snowfall, including Ambleside Parish Centre, Braithwaite Hall and Esthwaite Primary School.

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: "We are continuing to see challenging conditions in Cumbria," adding that officers are working hard to get people unstuck.

"We are aware of a number of incidents in which highway teams and those assisting in the efforts to support those affected by the snow have been verbally abused.

"We understand people's frustration during this time; however, agencies are working hard to improve the situation in Cumbria and are also facing the challenging road conditions when responding.

Bingham in Nottinghamshire
Bingham in Nottinghamshire. Picture: Alamy

"The snow today ended up being much more significant than forecast and the amber warning that was put in place this afternoon is in place until midnight and, with a yellow warning from snow and ice tomorrow, we expect to continue to see challenging road conditions whilst these warning are in place. Therefore, we continue to ask people to not travel and to only do so if absolutely necessary."

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.

National Highways national network manager Dale Hipkiss advised people to be as prepared as possible when on the roads in the wake of multiple vehicles becoming stranded in Cumbria.

A gritter lorry on Saturday
A gritter lorry on Saturday. Picture: Getty

He said: "Keeping a kit of essential items like a torch and warm clothes, in your vehicle, can be vital in case you and your passengers become stranded.

"Freezing conditions bring so many hazards such as snow and ice, please take every possible step to understand your journey in advance and allow extra time when travelling. Keeping a kit of essential items like a torch and warm clothes, in your vehicle, can be vital."

A derelict barn sits in the fog and snow at Mill Farm on December 02, 2023 in Bodsham, United Kingdom
A derelict barn sits in the fog and snow at Mill Farm on December 02, 2023 in Bodsham, United Kingdom. Picture: Getty

The Met Office 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".

This warning was extended into more of southwest Scotland and northern England on Saturday evening.

Meanwhile yellow weather warnings for snow and ice have been issued for the north west of England, the Midlands, the south, and parts of Wales and Scotland, lasting until Monday.

Windermere Village Cumbria
Windermere Village Cumbria. Picture: Alamy

And a map, published by forecasters WX Charts, showed snow is likely to fall over some parts of the UK until Tuesday, concentrated in Wales, northern England and some of Scotland.

Snow clouds will reappear on Wednesday evening, with rain also set to fall according to the forecaster.

Meanwhile temperatures fell to -12C in Scotland overnight, with freezing temperatures observed overnight for much of the rest of the UK.

People play in the snow in Victoria Park in Glasgow
People play in the snow in Victoria Park in Glasgow. Picture: Getty

The wintry conditions caused disruption in other parts of the UK too, with trains cancelled and Stansted Airport grounding some flights.

Glasgow
Glasgow. Picture: Alamy

One man was said to have frozen to death in his car in Nottingham amid the freezing conditions. He was said to have been living in the vehicle.

Glasgow
Glasgow. Picture: Getty

One resident told Mail Online after his death: "People tried to get help for the poor guy in the past. What an awful and tragic waste of a life.

"What is society coming to when a homeless person can freeze to death on a street in Britain?" Police did not confirm this detail, saying instead that they were responding to a "sudden death".

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