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Heavy snowfall leaves drivers trapped on roads in Cumbria overnight

A van is pushed onto the snowbound A591 between Kendal and Windermere on Saturday evening
A van is pushed onto the snowbound A591 between Kendal and Windermere on Saturday evening - Asadour Guzelian

Drivers were trapped in their cars overnight as heavy snowfall in Cumbria brought widespread disruption after the Met Office had warned of up to 15cm of snow.

Andy Brett told the BBC he had been travelling from Essex to a wedding in Cumbria for 19 hours, but had got stuck on the A595 and been unable to reach his destination.

He said: “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.”

Cumbria Police said: “A yellow weather warning continues to be in place for ice until 11am today across Cumbria. Yesterday, we’ve seen challenging road conditions across the county due to heavy snowfall.”

The force had earlier urged people not to travel to the county on Sunday after it declared a major incident because of heavy snowfall on the roads. It added that some highway teams had been “verbally abused” as they attempted to deal with the situation.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service said it was utilising 4x4 vehicles to help “vulnerable people stuck in the snow as required”, adding that it was assisting at reception centres.

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

Harrison Ward, an Ambleside resident, said the snow was the heaviest he had seen during eight years of living in the town, adding that lots of people had abandoned their vehicles on Saturday as they “tried to find refuge”.

Mr Ward told the PA news agency: “It really feels like you’re walking through the Alps or some ski resort at the moment. 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.”

National Highways said it was dealing with a large number of stranded vehicles in Cumbria
National Highways said it was dealing with a large number of stranded vehicles in Cumbria - UKNIP

One driver said they had been 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.

“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.”

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.

The force said the M6 southbound had been blocked between junctions 38 and 37 on Saturday because of jack-knifed lorries, and 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 junctions 38 and 40.

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

The force urged residents to stay indoors and to check the traffic map on its website if they needed to travel.

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 began to ease overnight.

Visitors to the Lake District haul a suitcase as they head towards Windermere on foot after vehicles became stranded
Visitors to the Lake District haul a suitcase as they head towards Windermere on foot after vehicles became stranded - Asadour Guzelian

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

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.”

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 Dec 5, meaning “cold weather impacts are likely to be felt across the whole health service for an extended period of time”.

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