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Friday, 18 April 2014

Motorists stranded as ice and snow hit main A66

Police and Highways Agency staff carried out an operation to rescue motorists stranded on a major Cumbrian road in freezing conditions last night.

The A66 was closed in both directions between the A685 and B6276 at New Road, Brough and the A67 at Bowes.

A Cumbria police spokeswoman said the icy weather - which included sporadic snowfall - made driving conditions on the road "treacherous", leaving some vehicles barely able to travel.

Police and Highways Agency staff patrolled to ensure the safety of motorists. The operation to get them all safely off the road continued until beyond midnight. The stranded vehicles included at least one HGV.

The road reopened at about 1.30am.

The severe weather came as police urged motorists to avoid driving amid mounting concern over snow and freezing conditions which made driving across much of the county hazardous. Conditions on the A66 became so bad that even a gritter lorry got stuck as sleet froze seconds after falling.

Earlier, fears over black ice prompted a 30mph speed limit on the M6 south of Penrith towards Tebay. Shortly after 6pm, emergency service crews were called out to a crash on the motorway's northbound carriageway between junctions 36 and 37. Police urged all motorists using the M6 to slow down.

One southbound lane was later closed due to an accident between junction 45 Gretna and junction 44 Carlisle North.

The Met Office said that up to 10cms of snow was likely to accumulate on higher ground.

Tonight (Wednesday) could see a worse snowfall, with "blizzard" like conditions in some areas as winds gust at up to 70mph, say forecasters.

Drivers were yesterday told avoid these roads, which were either closed or dangerous due to snow:

  • Kirkstone Pass closed
  • Wrynose Pass and Hardknott Pass closed.
  • A5092 – both ways blocked. There is queuing traffic between A5084 (Penny Bridge) and A590 (Greenodd)
  • A686 – Hartside Pass passable with care

And with more severe gales forecast to hit Cumbria tonight, the Met Office has issued an amber weather warning. Transport and power supplies could be affected, while large waves are likely to batter coastal areas.

Residents across the county are advised to be prepared.

The weather conditions stem from a band of low pressure moving north. This is likely to be accompanied by a swathe of southwesterly gales which may be severe in places. Winds will veer more westerly later today.

Current predictions suggest that parts of northern and western England will bear the brunt of the problems, with gusts of 60 to 70 mph widely, potentially reaching 80 to 90 mph in exposed areas.

Snow showers are also expected to continue this morning (Wednesday) in the north of England, including Cumbria. Accumulations of between two and five centimetres of snow are likely on ground above about 150 to 200m, with 10cm or more above 300m.

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