More than 100 motorists were forced to abandon their cars and seek refuge at a pub on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall after heavy snowfall blanketed the A30 on Thursday night.
Many of the stranded drivers and passengers reached the Jamaica Inn – the pub made famous by the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name – after trudging through 12cm of snow for several miles.
The inn’s general manager Sammy Wheeler said some of the 36 rooms had to be shared by complete strangers, while makeshift dormitories were set up in the restaurant and other parts of the pub for individuals and families escaping the wild weather outside.
“People were fed up of being in a cold car and they were running out of fuel,” she said. “Some of them have walked a good three, four or five miles. There’s no beds left but we are now letting people sleep everywhere and I’m providing them with pillows and blankets.
“We are slowly running out of food, but thankfully the freezer’s got bits in which we are now starting to go through,” added Ms Wheeler. “But people are definitely being fed still. On drink we’re doing good. Plenty of tea and coffee but also plenty of alcohol in case people are fancying something to ease their really, really rubbish day.”
Some drivers said they were stuck on the stretch of the A30 near Okehampton for more than five hours on Thursday evening, with some complaining on Twitter about the absence of snow ploughs trying to clear the road.
Highways England said on Friday morning that it had teams of gritters and ploughs working to get traffic moving on the A30, while police and the fire brigade were carrying out checks on the welfare of drivers where possible.
Widespread travel disruption is expected across the country on Friday after temperatures plummeted as low as minus -15.4C in the Scottish Highlands overnight. Much of southern England and Wales woke up to snow after the coldest night in the UK since 2012.
An amber snow warning has been issued for an area west of London including parts of Oxfordshire, Hampshire and Buckinghamshire until 11am Friday morning, with stranded vehicles and power cuts “likely”, and a “good chance” some rural communities could be cut off.
Yellow-level warnings for snow and ice are in place for much of the UK. Police forces across the country are warning motorists to consider if their journeys are necessary before heading out today, advising them to be “extremely careful” if have to travel by road.
On the rail network, Southeastern and Transport for Wales have altered their services on Friday as a result of the adverse conditions. The South Western Railway warned some early services may need to be cancelled as routes are cleared.
Elsewhere, Southern, Thameslink, Great Northern and Gatwick Express were expected to run normally, although all passengers were urged to check before they travel in case the conditions impact services. Transport for London also advised passengers to check their service status before setting off.
Airports were also hit by the freezing weather, with Bristol Airport suspending flights until 8am while the runway was cleared.
Snow was also seen falling at Heathrow on Friday, where British Airways altered a number of short-haul flights on Thursday, and passengers using the hub were being told to stay in contact with their airlines before travelling. Gatwick Airport also saw flurries, although the airport was advising passengers it was planning on operating as normal on Friday.
Across Devonshire 34 schools have said they will be closed or partially closed on Friday and 35 schools across Cornwall have also said they will not be opening, according to the two county councils.
Met Office meteorologist Emma Smith said: “There is still sleet and snow across southern counties, the band is currently sitting across the south-west and Wales and across to East Anglia and London.
“What will be happening to it is it will get patchier as it goes on, but it could cause some disruption to rush hour. Temperatures are widely below freezing so there’s icy stretches so people will have to take care going into work.”
By lunchtime on Friday temperatures in the south-east are expected to nudge towards 4C, meaning the sleet and snow should turn to rain.
The rest of the country, with the exception of southern Scotland and Northern Ireland, is expected to see wintry showers persist into Friday evening.
The Met Office said a low of -15.4C was recorded just before midnight at Braemar in the Scottish Highlands. Had it fallen more than 0.2C lower it would have surpassed the low of -15.6C set in 2012.
Additional reporting by Press Association
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