Thousands without electricity in Cumbria as people rescued from snowbound cars
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.
More than 2,500 people in Cumbria were without electricity on Sunday morning, as the county’s fire and rescue service said it worked through the night to rescue drivers from cars trapped in deep snow.
Power cuts followed Saturday’s heavy snow in Cumbria, with the Met Office issuing new weather warnings for across the UK on Sunday morning.
The Met Office said last night saw the coldest temperatures since last winter, with minus 12.5C recorded in Altnaharra in the Highland region of northern Scotland.
Meteorologist Tom Morgan said unofficial reports indicated there was “comfortably in excess of 20cm, probably in excess of 30cm, of snow across the Windermere and Coniston area of the South Lakes and also down towards Ambleside and the far south of Cumbria”.
He told the PA news agency: “It was quite an unusual situation that led to it because it became slow moving and gave the same areas of south Cumbria hour after hour of heavy snow and that’s what led to the significant disruption there.”
The Met Office meteorologist said the weather on Sunday had “turned a bit milder in the south”, but added it was “still cold further north across the UK and there’s going to be some further wintry showers and ice as we go through tonight”.
“It is turning milder later this week so there is an end in sight to the wintry weather,” he added.
Electricity North West’s list of live power cuts showed that 2,508 customers were affected across Cumbria at 10am, including 256 in Lowick, South Lakeland.
In most cases, the electricity operator estimated that power would be restored at 10pm on Sunday.
In a post on social media, Electricity North West said: “Access is difficult and our teams are using 4x4s to try to reach sections of the damaged network.”
Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service (CFRS) said a multi-agency response was ongoing after Cumbria Police declared a major incident in the county on Saturday in response to heavy snowfall on roads.
In a post on social media on Sunday morning, it said: “CFRS have been working through the night rescuing people from their cars trapped in deep snow.
“Please do not travel unless necessary as many roads are still affected with snow and ice.”
Cumbria Police also urged people not to travel to the county on Sunday unless necessary, adding that some highway teams had been “verbally abused” as they attempted to deal with the situation.
Superintendent Andy Wilkinson said on Saturday night that the snow had “ended up being much more significant than forecast”.
Mr Wilkinson added: “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.”
A number of local community venues were opened to provide support to those affected by the heavy snowfall, including Ambleside Parish Centre, Braithwaite Hall and Esthwaite Primary School.
Kendal resident Hannah Smith said she had never seen such heavy snow in Ambleside and Grasmere.
It took Ms Smith nine hours to return home to Kendal from Grasmere on Saturday night – a journey which usually takes under 30 minutes by car in normal weather conditions.
She said she decided to abandon her car and walk to the nearest train station in Windermere after waiting in traffic with two eight-year-old children for four-and-a-half hours on Saturday night.
The communications manager told the PA news agency: “Rather than sleeping on the floor of a church or a community centre, we were just going to walk as long as it takes to get near the train station.
“We were quite lucky in that sense because the kids had walking boots and we knew they could walk.”
Ambleside resident Harrison Ward said the snow was the heaviest he had seen during eight years of living in the Cumbrian town, adding that lots of people had abandoned their vehicles on Saturday as they “tried to find refuge”.
Mr Ward, who works as an outdoor cook, told the PA news agency: “It really feels like you’re walking through the Alps or some ski resort at the moment.”
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.”
One driver said they were stuck between Ambleside and Windermere for more than five hours on Saturday.
We’ve had no communication from any of the authorities and we’ve not seen a single gritter trying to free anyone
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.”
Windermere Cruises said on Sunday that it was suspending all its sailings on Lake Windermere for the day because of the snow.
The Met Office had issued an amber warning for snow in Cumbria throughout Saturday saying 10-15cm of snow was possible, as well as issuing a warning for ice until 11am on Sunday.
The weather service also issued a yellow weather warning for ice in the East Midlands, the West Midlands, the north of England, and much of north and central Wales from 5pm on Sunday to 12pm on Monday.
In its warning, the Met Office said: “Some snow is also likely, mainly across the hills and mountains of north Wales and The Peak District.”
There was also a separate yellow weather warning for snow and ice in eastern Scotland from 5pm on Sunday to 12pm on Monday.
In its warning, the Met Office said “occasional wintry showers will affect eastern Scotland this evening and through Monday morning, the showers falling onto frozen surfaces giving the risk of ice.
“A cm or two of snow is possible at low levels inland with 5-10cm over the hills, but showers at low levels expected to turn increasingly to rain overnight.”
On Saturday morning, Glasgow Airport said it had temporarily suspended all flights because of “heavier than forecast snow”.
Flights were also cancelled and delayed at London Stansted Airport on Saturday evening.
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 December 5, meaning “cold weather impacts are likely to be felt across the whole health service for an extended period of time”.