Flood warning follows snow chaos as drivers spend the night stranded on the M6 motorway

A mountain rescue team had to dig an ambulance out of snow overnight
  • @James_Legge

Extreme weather continues in the north of England, with sudden snowfall blocking roads overnight, and a mountain rescue team having to dig an ambulance out of snow.

And rain forecast for today means that flooding may follow.

Snow forced drivers to a standstill on the M6 last night in both directions between junctions 25 and 27 in Lancashire.

Many got stranded between Wigan and Standish after struggling with inclines in the dangerous conditions, while a number of accidents including jack-knifed lorries also blocked lanes.

The M56 and M58 which were also blocked.

Conservative MP for Morecambe & Lunesdale David Morris, who was stuck on the southbound carriageway, told Sky News: "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."

Kevin Collister, who was stuck on the motorway just past the M58 junction heading northbound, told Sky News: "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.

Lancashire Police has since said traffic is now moving on the roads, but they remain heavily congested with long tailbacks. 

Chief Inspector Mike Adamson said: "We realised at about 11pm last night that this was going to be a major incident.

"Some of the drivers and passengers have been stuck for hours - it has been a very difficult night for them.

"We have set up a command centre at Charnock Services, where officers have collected hot drinks and taken them to those who are stuck."

Some drivers passed the time with snowball fights and building snowmen, while others abandoned their cars completely.

A spokesman for The Highway Agency urged those who had abandoned their cars to return to them as soon as possible.

He said: "The snowfall was very sudden and very heavy - over a foot in some places - causing cars to become stranded.

"But we have managed to get through the traffic and clear most routes to get people moving again.

"We are urging those who have abandoned their cars to collect, all we can do is move them to the side for now but it makes it difficult to clear routes.

"With the rain falling and ice melting onto very cold road surfaces, we are now warning drivers of the danger of ice."

One man had to be taken to hospital by Lancashire Police after becoming ill in his stranded car, and North Yorkshire Fire Service said a husband and wife had to be rescued from a snow drift on the North York Moors around 7.30pm after a breakdown company refused to attend.

A spokesman for the fire service said: "Due to extreme weather conditions a husband and wife had driven into a snow drift and were unable to get out.

"The wife had undergone surgery a week before and they had tried to dig themselves out for over two hours."

Meanwhile all flights have been suspended at Leeds Bradford International Airport this morning as a fresh blanket of snow covered most of the Yorkshire region, and bus services were suspended in a number of towns in West Yorkshire yesterday evening, including in Halifax and Keighley.

The country is now braced for flooding as heavy rain moves in and rising temperatures spark a rapid thaw of the snow and ice that has built up over the last two weeks.

Chris Burton, a forecaster for the Press Association's weather division, said temperatures could rise to around 8C today before reaching more than 10C in the south tomorrow, followed by wet and windy weather next week.

He said: "Heavy rain will fall across most parts of Britain tonight and into tomorrow morning.

"The worst affected areas will be the west of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which will see up to an inch of rain overnight.

"Combined with rapid melting snow it brings a risk of localised flooding."

The Met Office currently has ice warnings in place across the UK, with the exception of the south-west of England and Wales, urging drivers and pedestrians to take care.