Hundreds of drivers spent up to eight hours trapped in their vehicles on the M6 in Lancashire after heavy snow brought the motorway to a standstill.
The motorway became blocked in both directions between junctions 25 and 27, near Wigan, on Friday night after vehicles became stuck in more than a foot of snow and some drivers abandoned their cars.
Many drivers were affected along the stretch between Wigan and Standish after struggling to make it up inclines in the treacherous conditions, while a number of accidents including jack-knifed lorries also blocked lanes.
Prime Minister David Cameroon tweeted: “Huge sympathy for those affected by heavy #uksnow. Govt working closely with transport operators to minimise impact on everyone.”
Mountain rescue teams were brought in to help police and the Highways Agency clear roads and assist those who were stranded.
One man had to be taken to hospital after becoming ill in his car while it was stuck.
And some of the stranded drivers passed the time with snowball fights and building snowmen.
The M6, as well as the M56 and M58 which were also blocked, are now all moving again but remain heavily congested with long tailbacks, Lancashire Police said.
Motorists contacted Sky News overnight to share their tales of woe.
Kevin Collister, stuck on the motorway just past the M58 junction heading northbound, said: “There is absolutely no movement whatsoever on my side of the carriageway, all the snow is squashed down into ice and there are wagons trying to move and sliding sideways.
“It’s an absolute nightmare, we’ve been here for three hours so far. A few people are saying we might be here for the night but we’re just hoping we can get through.”
Conservative MP David Morris, stuck on the southbound carriageway, said: “We’ve ground to a halt on both sides. Nothing is really moving.
“But the emergency services have been fantastic and are doing the best for us, and everyone is in good spirits.
“I’ve just seen a snowball fight and the man next door to me has built a snowman on top of his car roof … it’s very surreal.”
Barry Pinches, on his way to Blackpool, told Sky News: “At one stage we didn’t think we would make it but it looks like things are moving slowly now. We saw some snow ploughs on the southbound carriageway but there doesn’t seem to be too many of them – they have their work cut out.”
Pete Martin, from the Highways Agency, confirmed to Sky News that the carriageways had been gritted before the snow came down.
“We had an extremely intense fall of snow across Lancashire between 8.30pm and midnight and basically there wasn’t enough traffic to keep the lanes moving,” he said.
“A number of HGVs lost traction between junctions 25 and 27 and once they blocked the carriageway the snow stacked up and the result was a number of stranded vehicles.”
The agency worked throughout the night to clear the routes with snow ploughs. It is urging those who had abandoned their cars to return to them as soon as possible.
A spokesman said: “With the rain falling and ice melting onto very cold road surfaces, we are now warning drivers of the danger of ice.”
Hazardous driving conditions led to collisions and delays on many routes across the north of England, including the M18, M60, M65, M56 and M58.
Meanwhile, all flights were suspended at Leeds Bradford International Airport during the morning as a fresh blanket of snow covered most of the Yorkshire region.
North Yorkshire Fire Service said a couple had to be rescued from a snow drift on the North York Moors last night.
North Yorkshire Police said some main roads were blocked by snow and abandoned vehicles including the A59 between Harrogate and Skipton and the B6265 at Rylstone.
Weather experts have warned of the risk of flooding this weekend, as heavy rain moves in and rising temperatures spark a rapid thaw of the built-up snow and ice.
Article source: http://news.sky.com/story/1043086