North Devon escapes the snow - but blizzard conditions cause problems around the county
NORTH Devon has largely escaped the heavy snowfalls predicted to hit the region last night (Tuesday). No fresh snow has been reported in Barnstaple, Bideford, Ilfracombe or Torrington although 2-3 inches has been reported in villages to the west of Bidefo
NORTH Devon has largely escaped the heavy snowfalls predicted to hit the region last night (Tuesday).
No fresh snow has been reported in Barnstaple, Bideford, Ilfracombe or Torrington although 2-3 inches has been reported in villages to the west of Bideford, including Woolsery.
The A361 North Devon Link Road is passable with care but there is snow in the Knowlstone area and gritters were out again treating the road just after 5am this morning.
Drifting snow is causing problems on the A39 and motorists are advised to take extra care at Blackfriars Gate and on the stretch from Blackmoor Gate to County Gate.
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The B3223 Simonsbath to Scob Hill is closed, as is the B3212 Yelverton to Princetown which is blocked by abandoned vehicles, where ploughs and diggers are working to clear snow. The B3192 Ashcombe to Teignmouth re-opened earlier this morning after an overnight closure.
Conditions are difficult on the A382 at Whiddon Down but it is passable with care, and Bovey Tracey to Moretonhampstead is only passable with 4x4. The B3357 from Tavistock to Princetown should only be accessed by 4x4 only.
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The A386 is passable with care at Mary Tavy and Sourton sections and abandoned cars are causing a hazard. The B3358 is passable with care from Friendship Cross to Simonsbath and the B3042 Eggesford to Westaway Cross is also passable with care.
Ploughs have been working throughout the night on clearing roads in East Devon at Hemyock-Dunkerswell-Smeatharpe and on the B3107 from Stopgate to the Somerset border.
Elsewhere around the county, blizzard conditions stranded hundreds of motorists for up to eight hours on the A38 at Haldon Hill and on the A380 on Telegraph Hill, just outside Exeter yesterday evening.
Devon County Council said the A380 was treated three times in less than 24 hours before the heavy snow fell, the last one at 3pm. Gritters were also dispatched onto the A380 to treat continuously when the snow flurries began.
Four county council gritters were used in recovering the situation by ploughing, clearing and treating the road to get traffic moving. Both lanes of the A380 in each direction re-opened around midnight.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said: "We obviously sympathise with motorists that got stuck on Telegraph Hill and Haldon Hill last night, but I don't think people should be looking to lay blame at the door of anyone.
"The A380 had been treated repeatedly ahead of the snowfall and gritter drivers were on shift to provide 24-hour response from lunchtime, so I don't think there was anything more that could have been done. These were freak conditions, not on the scale of last February, but still bad enough."
Chris Cranston, the council's Highway Operations Manager, said: "The Met Office issued a severe weather warning of an 80 per cent chance of serious disruption to travel as a result of heavy snow, and it turns out they were correct.
"Of course we share the sentiment of the police and Highways Agency in apologising for the delays but we were as prepared as we could be. What we couldn't account for is the sheer amount of snow which fell in a short space of time, and there was an incident on the A380 during the evening rush hour which caused traffic to back up. As soon as traffic stops in heavy snow then you are fighting a losing battle to recover the situation.
"But the situation was eventually recovered and that is thanks to the co-ordinated effort between the police, Highways Agency, Devon County Council and the fire service, which made this a very different situation from last February.
"Last year the snow came in at 9pm after the evening peak period, whereas this time the snow came just as traffic was building to its busiest period and therefore the build-up of traffic was very rapid. There was excellent joint agency working and everyone was fully committed to getting traffic moving as quickly as possible rather than leaving it until the morning like last year."
Around 30 people used rest centres at Chudleigh Town Hall and Exeter Racecourse. The emergency centres, opened by Devon County Council and Teignbridge District Council, offered motorists blankets and refreshments as well as support from volunteers including St John Ambulance, British Red Cross, Salvation Army, Chudleigh Town Council, racecourse staff and local members of the public.
Ian Gibson, who managed the rest centre at Exeter Racecourse said: "We were mobilised and ready with staff available to help people should the emergency have escalated as it did last year, as and when drivers were asked to leave their vehicles. Both centres had visitors who were grateful of the refuge, the safety and a chance for a hot drink."
This morning, the council has issued a warning of ice on untreated roads and motorists are again warned to travel with extreme care.
For more information about Devon's road network contact 0845 1551004 or visit the website: www.devon.gov.uk/winter_travel
Alternatively for trunk road and motorway information call the 24 hour Highways Agency Information Line for live traffic reports (08457-504030) or listen to the latest reports online at www.trafficradio.org.uk