Dozens spend night at school shelter after snow shuts A30 in South West

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More than 80 people have spent the night at a school after heavy snow shut a 64-mile stretch of a major road in south west England.

Commuters across the country have been warned of potential snow and ice hazards on Monday as a wintry snap dubbed the “mini beast from the east” continues to cause disruption.

Weather warning for ice March 19 - 20 (PA Graphics)
Weather warning for ice March 19 – 20 (PA Graphics)

Some 64 miles of road between the M5 at Exeter and the A38 at Bodmin were shut as a result while officers and Highways England cleared the route.

The force tweeted: “#A30 #DevonandCornwall closed, significant snow that highways are working to clear, if you’re already on it drive with caution as conditions are variable changing rapidly from passable to impossible, if not on it DELAY YOUR JOURNEY until midmorning at the earliest”.

A total of 82 people stuck on the A30 were moved to a rest centre at Okehampton College at the north side of Dartmoor.

Richard White, volunteer rest centre manager, said spirits were high among the residents despite their dramatic evening.

He said: “We first of all provide them with something hot to drink and we’ve got blankets, duvets.

“We make sure people get a good night’s sleep, we feed them in the morning and weather-permitting, we prepare them to get back in their cars and on their way.

“Police want everybody off the roads to give them the opportunity to clear the roads with the snow ploughs and the gritters in time for the morning.”

Speaking of the mood inside the centre, he said: “It is people coming together, it’s the community working not for the benefit of each other, but for the whole community. It’s a lovely atmosphere we’ve got, it’s a fantastic atmosphere here and we make the most of it.”

Highways England has advised motorists wanting to travel on the A30 to instead use the A38 between Exeter and Bodmin.

Meanwhile Devon County Council confirmed the closure of dozens of schools on Monday, while train services were also said to be affected.

The Met Office has issued a yellow warning of ice for England and Wales that will remain in place until 10am.

A car which left a slip road off the A30 near Okehampton in Devon (Martin Keene/PA)
A car which left a slip road off the A30 near Okehampton in Devon (Martin Keene/PA)

Met Office meteorologist John West said: “It’s been a very, very cold night overnight with widespread frost. A lot of the lying snow seen across the country over the weekend has created some icy stretches this morning.

“In the South West, we’ve seen a constant flow of snow coming in from the English Channel with snow depths going up and up.

“In Exeter, we have at least 10cm (4in) of snow lying at the moment.

“Many routes towards Dartmoor and Exmoor have the potential to see a lot of disruption because of ice this morning.”

Forecasters painted a better picture for the rest of the day, with drier and brighter weather on the horizon for much of the country, but warned it will still feel particularly cold due to the wind chill.

Traffic on a road off the A30 near Okehampton in Devon (Martin Keene/PA)
Traffic on a road off the A30 near Okehampton in Devon (Martin Keene/PA)

“We could see highs of 5C (41F) or 6C (43F) but add some wind chill on there and it won’t feel very pleasant at all.

“However there will be some decent, fine weather, plenty of sunshine around today, particularly in northern parts, and a bit of an improvement from what we’ve seen over the weekend.”

A separate yellow ice warning has been issued for parts of southern and eastern Scotland until 10am.

On Sunday, ice led to delays and cancellations at Gatwick Airport – with 37 flights axed.

The airport apologised to affected passengers and advised them to contact their airlines to be kept up to date.

“We apologise to all passengers who have been delayed or had flights cancelled tonight, this is due to the prolonged cold snap and the essential de-icing requirements which have mounted during the afternoon and evening,” the airport said on Twitter.

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