uk weather mountain rescue teams called in to help motorists trapped in cars on m6 for eight hours after heavy snow and forecasters warn we re in for a stormy weekend

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  • Travel chaos on M6 in Lancashire after a foot of snow blocked the motorway between junctions 25 and 27
  • Mountain rescue teams and police were called to the scene to rescue hundreds of stranded passengers
  • Some drivers were stuck on the motorway for up to eight hours between 8.30pm last night and this morning
  • Up to 7in of snow fell over high ground in parts of the country - with many areas getting 4in overnight
  • Several flights have been delayed at Leeds Bradford International Airport
  • Today will see temperatures soar to as high as 9C when snow and ice will start to thaw causing flooding in areas

By Martin Robinson, Nick Enoch and Suzannah Hills

PUBLISHED: 10:02 EST, 25 January 2013 | UPDATED: 06:02 EST, 26 January 2013

Hundreds of motorists were left stranded on the M6 for up to eight hours overnight after a sudden burst of more than a foot of snow brought traffic to a standstill.

Mountain rescue teams and police were called in to help rescue stranded drivers after the motorway became blocked in both directions from junctions 25 and 27 between Wigan and Chorley in Lancashire from 8.30pm last night until the early hours of this morning.

Eye witnesses reported that a number of vehicles tried to drive around the blocked traffic using the hard shoulder but ended up crashing in the bad weather causing further tailbacks.

It comes as residents in south-west Wales were hit by severe flooding as rising temperatures sparked a rapid thaw of the snow and ice that has built up over the last two weeks and has cost the economy £318million.

Stranded: The M6 motorway was blocked in both directions between junctions 25 and 27 in Lancashire when a sudden burst of more than a foot of snow brought drivers to a standstill around 8.30pm, the Highways Agency said

Stranded: The M6 motorway was blocked in both directions between junctions 25 and 27 in Lancashire when a sudden burst of more than a foot of snow brought drivers to a standstill around 8.30pm, the Highways Agency said

'Surreal scenes': Stranded drivers spent hours building snowmen and playing northbound vs southbound snowball fights while they waited to be rescued

'Surreal scenes': Stranded drivers spent hours building snowmen and playing northbound vs southbound snowball fights while they waited to be rescued

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 of the stranded drivers passed the time with snowball fights with a battle between the northbound and southbound carriageway. Others spent the hours building snowmen as they waited for help to arrive while some abandoned their cars completely.

Mountain rescue workers walked along the four-mile stretch of the M6 in Lancashire overnight to check on the condition of drivers.

A diabetic man was taken to Royal Blackburn Hospital, while an ambulance taking a female patient to Royal Preston Hospital had to be dug out of the snow by Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue team.

Phil O'Brien, team leader of Bowland Pennine Mountain Rescue, said: 'It was potentially a very serious situation. The Highways Agency managed to get people moving at about 4.30 to 5am.

'There were hundreds of cars stuck but most people seemed in good spirits.'

'Major incident': Mountain rescue teams and police were called to the scene to help stranded drivers

'Major incident': Mountain rescue teams and police were called to the scene to help stranded drivers

Accidents: Many lorries jack-knifed in the bad weather while other vehicles crashed trying to negotiate their way around the stuck traffic

Accidents: Many lorries jack-knifed in the bad weather while other vehicles crashed trying to negotiate their way around the stuck traffic

But while some drivers lightheartedly entertained themselves with snowball fights and building snowmen, one woman who got stuck on the M6 travelling home to Booyle from Wigan described the it as the 'scariest experience' she had had in 26 years of driving.

Louise Jones, who spent five hours on the motorway making the 20 mile trip home, told ITV: 'We did not move at all, three lanes of cars were totally gridlocked. For the first three hours we left the engine running to keep warm, then turned it off and every car we could see was just sitting in the darkness, it was really eerie how silent it was.

'Eventually a snow plough drove along the hard shoulder at about 1am, then we saw nothing moving until a police car at 1.40am.

'It really was horrendous. I can't understand why it took so long to clear enough space to direct traffic through. It was a total farce.'

Lancashire Police also worked with Lancashire Mountain Rescue teams, the Highways Agency and neighbouring force Greater Manchester Police to clear roads and provide welfare assistance to those who were stranded.

The Highway Agency worked throughout the night to clear the routes with snow ploughs.

Motorway camera: This CCTV image shows the deserted M6 southbound at junction 30 but hundreds of stranded cars can be seen in the distance

Motorway camera: This CCTV image shows the deserted M6 southbound at junction 30 but hundreds of stranded cars can be seen in the distance

Traffic jam: Hundreds of drivers spent several hours stuck on the M6, pictured northbound above, last night

Traffic jam: Hundreds of drivers spent several hours stuck on the M6, pictured northbound above, last night

A spokesman for the 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.

STUCK M6 DRIVERS' REACTION ON TWITTER

Dave Swanton(Swanny) ‏@SwannyMediaMan tweeted: '@Highways_Agency any chance of some grit on the M6 at Standish around J27. You keep telling everyone how hard you are working.Its a disgrace'

Luke J R McCormick ‏@LukejrMcCormick: 'After going through a snow blizzard along the M6 and across into Wales last night, I wake up to blue sky and sunshine'

Food saviour: Drivers stranded on the M6 were apparently prevented from going hungry

Aiesha Shepherd ‏@Aieshashep: 'Dying this morning after strolling in at 4:30 this morning and NOT due to a messy night out how about being stuck on the M6 in snow 7 hours!'

anthony still ‏@stilly2009: '@granadareports terrible conditions on the M6 last night,I saw at least 10 vehicles crashed,only one lane appeared to have been gritted!'

'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.'

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.

'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 for Morecambe & Lunesdale David Morris, who was stuck on the southbound carriageway, reported surreal scenes but a camaraderie among the drivers stuck in the snow.

He 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.'

Another person claimed a burger van stranded on the M6 started serving food to other drivers stuck on the M6.

Paul Kingston tweeted: 'Motorists caught in M6 #uksnow storm in Lancs last night were saved from hunger, after stranded burger van opens up shop on carriageway.'

Sudden snowfall: A foot of snow fell on the M6 in Lancashire, pictured is junction 27, in a very short period

Sudden snowfall: A foot of snow fell on the M6 in Lancashire, pictured is junction 27, in a very short period

Keeping busy: MP David Norris tweeted this picture of a snowman built on top of a car stranded on the M6 last night

Keeping busy: MP David Norris tweeted this picture of a snowman built on top of a car stranded on the M6 last night

Good spirits: Snooker player Barry Pinches tweeted this picture of a snowman in the fast lane of the M6 last night

Good spirits: Snooker player Barry Pinches tweeted this picture of a snowman in the fast lane of the M6 last night

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.

Wales has already been badly hit with emergency services inundated with incidents.

Torrential rain in south-western parts of the region, coupled with melting snow, has made some roads impassable.

Among the worst-affected areas are Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, where local councils have been asked to help with sandbags and unblocking drains.

Dyfed-Powys Police said it had received dozens of calls - and there are also reports of homes being flooded in south-east Wales.

Several centimetres of snow covered north-east England and Yorkshire overnight but many lower-lying areas were reporting that a thaw was already under way this morning.

The rapid snowfall last night caught out many motorists and several routes in the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors were impassable.

Water levels rose so quickly tonight that many residents in the village of Llanddowror, south-west Wales, did not have time to move their cars

Water levels rose so quickly last night that many residents in the village of Llanddowror, south-west Wales, did not have time to move their cars

Flooding is causing major disruption in south-west Wales this evening, with fire and police crews inundated with incidents. Above, a flooded bungalow in the centre of Llanddowror

Flooding is causing major disruption in south-west Wales, with fire and police crews inundated with incidents. Above, a flooded bungalow in the centre of Llanddowror

North Yorkshire Fire Service said a husband and wife had to be rescued from a snow drift on the North York Moors last night.

Crews were called to the Stape to Egton road at around 7.30pm.

A spokesman 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.

'A well-known breakdown company would not attend. Fire crews from Goathland and Whitby attended and managed to get the couple and the vehicle to the safety of a local hotel.

'Usually, the fire service only attend life risk incidents but on this occasion an exception was made.'

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.

The incident happened as a number of routes across the region were reported to be impassable.

Torrential rain in south-western parts of Wales, coupled with melting snow, has made some roads impassable

Torrential rain in south-western parts of Wales, coupled with melting snow, has made some roads impassable

Above, fire crews on the A477 in Llanddowror prepare to evacuate residents

The dramatic turnaround after more than a week of blizzards and freezing conditions means forecasters now fear more flooding today because of a rapid thaw of the heavy built-up of snow and ice. Above, fire crews on the A477 in Llanddowror prepare to evacuate residents

A man desperately tries to move his car despite the torrent of water in Llanddowror, south-west Wales tonight

A man desperately tries to move his car despite the torrent of water in Llanddowror, south-west Wales last night

South Yorkshire Police's armed response team tweeted: 'Not normal to be limited to 30mph by the snow and crazy motorists. This has to be the worst driving conditions ever.'

Northumbria Police advised against non-essential travel this morning.

But officers said a minor road in Gateshead was the only route in the force area that was closed due to drifting snow.

Bus services were suspended in a number of towns in West Yorkshire last night, including in Halifax and Keighley.

Flights have also been suspended at Leeds Bradford International Airport as a fresh blanket of snow covered most of the Yorkshire region.

A message on the airport's website said: 'As a result of adverse weather conditions, flights are currently not operating at Leeds Bradford Airport for a short period.

Three day forecast: Sunny spells today will cause some of the ice and snow from the last two weeks to thaw. Rain will start to move in on Sunday before covering much of the country on Monday

Three day forecast: Sunny spells today will cause some of the ice and snow from the last two weeks to thaw. Rain will start to move in on Sunday before covering much of the country on Monday

Flood warning: These yellow weather warnings show the areas that may suffer from flooding today and tomorrow

Flood warning: These yellow weather warnings show the areas that may suffer from flooding today and tomorrow

'Passengers may experience some delays while we clear the snow from the runway.

'We recommend you contact your airline or tour operator and check the status of your flight before arriving at the airport.'

After one last ferocious blast of snow, parts of Britain will see temperatures soar by up to 20 degrees this weekend, accompanied by a battering from near gale force winds and torrential rain.

The dramatic turnaround after more than a week of blizzards and freezing conditions means forecasters now fear more flooding today because of a rapid thaw of the heavy built-up of snow and ice.

Much of the UK will have suffered more heavy snow overnight before temperatures rose to 9C this morning accompanied by gusts of wind reaching 50mph in exposed areas during a warmer spell lasting until at least Wednesday.

Bwlchgwyn, the highest village in Wales, is already thickly coated in snow, but more wintry flurries are expected

Bwlchgwyn, the highest village in Wales, is already thickly coated in snow, but more wintry flurries are expected

snow

Up to a foot of snow is predicted before the weekend, which will bring rain. Wales' highest village has been coated in the white stuff as the inclement weather continued

Spencer Gisbourne created this snow dragon in Clipstone, Nottinghamshire, for his six-year-old son, Max. He said that it has created great amusement among his neighbours and earned him a few bottles of wine from mothers on his estate

Spencer Gisbourne created this snow dragon in Clipstone, Nottinghamshire, for his six-year-old son, Max. He said that it has created great amusement among his neighbours and earned him a few bottles of wine from mothers on his estate

The huge dragon has taken days to create but Spencer said that he can only build it when the temperature is above zero because the snow doesn't stick

The huge dragon has taken days to create but Spencer said that he can only build it when the temperature is above zero because the snow doesn't stick

On Thursday, parts of the UK were as cold as Lapland - with Cavendish in Suffolk dipping to almost -11C overnight - the same as the Scandinavian winter wonderland.

The Met Office put out amber warnings for the north of England, east of England and East and West Midlands, and much of Scotland, where there are already blizzards. Yellow warnings hang over Wales, south west England and London and the South East.

It warned that strong winds will also lead to drifting and blizzard-like conditions, particularly over higher level roads in the north. Head of special operations at the AA Darron Burness said: 'It looks likely that the current cold spell will go out with a bang'.

Treacherous: Drivers were caught in blizzards in Barnard Castle, County Durham in the run up to rush hour today

Treacherous: Drivers were caught in blizzards in Barnard Castle, County Durham in the run up to rush hour yesterday

Up against it: Snowfall began again in Country Durham, one of many areas to face more huge dumps in the next 12 hours before the great thaw starts

Having fun: A surviving snowman is used as a climbing frame by this urban fox interested to find out mopre about it - or eat its carrot

Having fun: A surviving snowman is used as a climbing frame by this urban fox interested to find out mopre about it - or eat its carrot

snowman

Got your nose! This hungry fox steals the nose from the snowman as she jumped up to greet the new guest in the back garden of her Bedfordshire home

Temperatures plummeted to a low of -10.8 in the village of Cavendish in Suffolk overnight, while many parts of England hit -7, Wales was at -9 near Cardiff and Scotland was at -4.9 in the Highlands. But they will rise up to 20C by the end of the weekend.

Temperatures will steadily rise to an average of 4C or more on Saturday before reaching 10C in the south on Sunday followed by wet and windy weather next week.

'It's difficult for forecasters to know the extent of the snowfall, so check the local weather and traffic reports before heading out and be prepared for possible disruption. Take extra care, particularly on higher ground, and allow extra time for your journey,' Mr Burness said.

Prediction: A worker clears snow from a drive in Barnard Castle, County Durham, but up to 10cm will fall in many places in the next 12 hours

Prediction: A worker clears snow from a drive in Barnard Castle, County Durham, but up to 10cm will fall in many places in the next 12 hours

Gripped: With the low temperatures set to end shortly, this roof of a farmhouse in Teesdale, County Durham remains firmly frozen

Gripped: With the low temperatures set to end shortly, this roof of a farmhouse in Teesdale, County Durham remains firmly frozen

snow doune

Braving the blizzards! Davie Booth and three year-old daughter Freya go sledging in Doune, central Scotland as snow continued to fall

Malvern snow

Making the most of it! Malvern sculptor Ed Elliott created this intricate snow sculpture, a life-sized snow angel in Rosebank Gardens

The death toll during the recent cold snap has hit double figures and could have risen again after it was feared a walker may have frozen to death in some Suffolk woodland.

The man's body was found on Thursday night after four friends went into Newmarket police station in Suffolk reporting that he had not been seen for four days before someone found him dead in a wooded area. He had not previously been reported as missing to police.

Officers visited the scene and found the body of the man, aged in his 30s or 40s.

A spokeswoman said: 'The area has been cordoned off while an initial investigation gets under way at the scene.'

Perfect: This Arctic wolf felt right at home at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust in Newbury as sub-zero temperatures remained over most of the country

Perfect: This Arctic wolf felt right at home at the UK Wolf Conservation Trust in Newbury as sub-zero temperatures remained over most of the country

Close: This wolf shares a moment with a handler at the sanctuary in Berkshire as the magnificent animals had some fun

Close: This wolf shares a moment with a handler at the sanctuary in Berkshire as the magnificent animals had some fun

Cute but deadly: These tame wolves look cuddly in these pictures but in the wild they are known for hunting and killing animals like reindeer

Cosy: Despite the intense cold these temperatures were probably toasty when compared to the conditions found in the Artic

Cosy: Despite the intense cold these temperatures were probably toasty when compared to the conditions found in the Artic

Fun: This trio are obviously close as they chase eachother through the snow in conditions they will be very happy to be in

Fun: This trio are obviously close as they chase eachother through the snow in conditions they will be very happy to be in

The death is being treated as unexplained but one theory is that he died in the freezing temperatures.

The latest victim was a 42-year-old man who died after his car careered into a river as he was driving his daughter on the school run along a bridle path near the Monsal Trail, north of the A6 in Derbyshire.

Other casualties of the cold spell include postman John Bircham, 57, who collapsed soon after he was towed out of a snowdrift in Dulverton, Somerset, on Saturday, and Bernadette Lee, 25, who was found collapsed in the snow in Deal, Kent, on Sunday following a night out.

But there could have been another victim of the wild weather, after a climber got caught on rocks as a storm raged off the cornish coast. While a naked man walking in the snow with nothing but a backpack sparked a police rescue of thirty officers and a helicopter.

One pedestrian suffered severe injuries  and was taken to hospital after a car collision in Birmingham.

A silver Mercedes collided with a female pedestrian on the Hagley Road between Plough and Harrow Road and the Five Ways Island at just before 3pm today.

A female pedestrian was in collision with a car and suffered serious injuries; she has been taken to a local hospital

A female pedestrian was in collision with a car and suffered serious injuries; she has been taken to a local hospital

The woman collided with a car in snowy Birmingham, on the Hagley Road, and suffered serious injuries

The woman who collided with a car in snowy Birmingham, on the Hagley Road, suffered serious injuries

Stupid: This is the dramatic moment a walker was almost swept off rocks by a 40ft column of water as he tried to get a closer look at the waves from a Newquay headland

Stupid: This is the dramatic moment a walker was almost swept off rocks by a 40ft column of water as he tried to get a closer look at the waves from a Newquay headland

Deathwish: The alarming image was captured by Paul Terry, who was on his way to Fistral beach to take photos of surfers riding the monster waves, and here the man in green is shown waving

Deathwish: The alarming image was captured by Paul Terry, who was on his way to Fistral beach to take photos of surfers riding the monster waves, and here the man in green is shown waving

Coastguards have issued a warning after a reckless walker was caught on camera clinging to rocks as powerful 40FT waves battered over him. The man was pictured risking his life clambering over a craggy headland to get as close as possible to the sea.

But within seconds he was forced to cower and cling to rocks as huge walls of water weighing thousands of tonnes smashed into the coast.

Onlookers say the daredevil was then forced to desperately hang on as waves crashed in during some of the worst weather of the year.

Shocked witnesses feared he would be swept out to sea from the rocks of Newquay, Cornwall.

It has prompted coastguards to issue fresh warnings to thrill seekers as large swell and impressive spray continue to draw crowds during the winter months.

Matt Pavitt, sector manager for North Cornwall, said people failed to realise that a single cubic metre of water weighs a tonne.

'I doubt anyone would like a one-tonne bag of water swung at them. It's incredibly dangerous,' he said.

'We don't want to be the fun police, we just want to instil a bit of common sense. It's incredibly impressive to watch the power of the ocean but you have to treat it with respect.

'Less than a foot of water will knock you off your feet, so at the height we're talking about here you've got no chance of trying to stand up against it if it breaks over you.

'Our advice is to watch the waves from a safe distance otherwise you're putting yourself in danger and those who come out to rescue you.'

Majestic: Tundra, now five-years-old, was taken in by a Barn Owl Centre in Gloucester after the RSCPA discovered she was being abused by her owner, and the snowy owl looked right at home in the snow

Too cute: The lambing season has begun at Sparsholt College near Winchester, with this newborn trying its first stops in the snow

Too cute: The lambing season has begun at Sparsholt College near Winchester, with this newborn trying its first stops in the snow

Sweet: These mothers look after their young as hundreds of lambs will be born in the next fortnight

Sweet: These mothers look after their young as hundreds of lambs will be born in the next fortnight

VIDEO MONKEYS! In the snow! The critters at Trentham Monkey Forest can't get enough! ***

 VIDEO  Sculptor builds stunning 'snow dragon' in Nottinghamshire

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