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Scotland Snowed Under 2010-12-07

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Europe, Glasgow, Scotland.
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Chaos on Scotland’s roads as blizzards batter country

Thousands of people were stranded yesterday after the heavier-than-expected snowfall brought much of the country’s transport network to a complete standstill.

Up to 40omm of snow fell in just a few hours, leaving workers trapped miles away from their homes and pupils and teachers stuck inside schools.

The army was drafted in to help ‘The Scottish Ambulance Service‘ reach patients by providing military 4×4 vehicles to transport paramedics and transfer those in need of medical assistance to hospitals.

Hotels in the centre of Glasgow were inundated with commuters looking for a bed for the night, and many people were forced to walk several miles from their offices.

Bus and train services were cancelled, and motorists abandoned their cars in the middle of the road as the packed snow made driving conditions treacherous.

Runways at Glasgow and Edinburgh airports were closed for several hours, and although the terminals later re-opened, freezing fog was causing further disruption last night.

The Met Office had predicted a band of snow across the Central Belt, but Transport MSP Mr. Stewart Stevenson (SNP, Banff and Buchan)  said it was heavier than expected – and the fact it fell during rush hour made conditions worse.

[Picture of MSP Stewart Stevenson, Banff and Buchan, SNP]Mr Stevenson last night moved to reassure the public that the disruption would not continue and said there was a stockpile of 250 000 tonnes of salt, with another 145 000 tonnes on order.

Road organisations said the conditions had been exceptional. Hundreds of motorists were stuck on the M8, M74, M9 and M80 motorways as they attempted to get home.

A spokesman for ‘The AA‘ said:

‘It snowed at the worst possible time: the morning rush hour. It meant the gritters got stuck in congestion, snow got compacted, and the weather won.

‘It was a perfect storm – just perfect to cause chaos.’

[Screen grab of scotrail website]In Glasgow, ‘ScotRail’ was forced to cancel many commuter trains, and the First bus group withdrew the majority of its services. Many taxi companies had no cars out on the roads by the afternoon. The city’s subway was operating as normal, but three stations – Kelvinhall, West Street and Ibrox – were closed because staff were unable to get to work.

Thousands of people could not get home, and hotels in Glasgow city centre were fully booked after a last-minute rush for overnight shelter.

Angus Telfor, general manager of the Buchanan Hotel, said:

‘I have taken an average of 10 calls every 10 minutes.

‘Everyone is ringing round Glasgow. This morning I had 30 rooms available. By about 3.30pm, all were booked.’

Mr. Ross Haggerty, 30, a human-resources officer, had initially managed to get on a train at Central Station before it was cancelled. He had to walk more than five miles to get to his home in Burnside. He said:

‘It was like something from a disaster film, with loads of people walking across the bridge from Jamaica Street. I’ve never seen anything like it.

‘Traffic was nose-to-tail on the way out of town, and by the looks of it the jam went right to East Kilbride.

‘Cars were just abandoned on the road and lots were turning their engines off and on as they crept forward. It took me almost three hours to walk home.’

Hospital staff in Glasgow volunteered for double shifts, taking advantage of makeshift sleeping facilities in disused wards so they could be on hand for patients. NHS Tayside said it had cancelled all of today’s scheduled appointments for non-urgent patients requiring ambulance transports.

After schools were closed, 400 pupils and their teachers were stranded temporarily at autism units across Glasgow as specialist transport vehicles could not reach them through the gridlocked roads. By 20:00 around 100 were still to be taken home, including eight pupils at Govan High.

Some train services began running in and out of Central Station last night but there were delays and reduced timetables on those routes still operating.

All transport operators said they would reassess the situation early today, but passengers have been urged to check companies’ websites before they set out.

A total of 30 flights from as far afield as Dubai, Paris and Bologna were diverted to Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire because of closures at Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Icy hell on M8 as motorists trapped in snow

Trapped motorists on the M8 were last night being urged by police to stay with their cars as temperatures dropped.

Scores of vehicles were caught in gridlock as police dealt with two jackknifed lorries near Livingston.

Mr.Mustafa Elshani told ‘Sky News‘ he had been stuck on the M8 motorway for eight hours – on a 17-mile journey that normally takes 30 minutes.

‘I left work early because of the snow chaos,’ he said.
‘Some families are stuck in their cars. People are totally desperate. There’s absolutely no-one coming to help.’

Lothian and Borders Police said they were working hard to move the lorries in icy conditions and appealed for drivers to stay in their cars as temperatures fell.

Stranded for hours … how would we cope in a real crisis?

Eyewitness: Ms.Helen Smith

I should have known as soon as I saw the falling snow that taking the car from home in Bonnybridge to work in Glasgow was probably not the best idea.

At 8.15am I joined the slow-moving traffic as we made our way to Haggs and the junction on to the A80. On the A80, it was slow and it was snowing, but the traffic was moving.

That was until about five miles down the road, just before the Castlecary junction, when everything heading south stopped.

It was a complete whiteout. When my fellow travellers started getting out of their cars and wandering up and down, I realised I was stuck.

Nothing was moving: snow ploughs and gritters couldn’t get through, and I’ve no idea what an ambulance or fire engine would have done.

And that’s how it remained for the next seven hours.

By mid-morning more and more people were out of their cars, trying to see if there was anything they could do. By lunchtime, the pressing need was for toilets and many hiked back to the Haggs junction.

A message then came through that cars were taking the Castlecary junction for Allandale because nothing was moving towards Glasgow.

When I eventually reached it, I was able to double-back home.

I still can’t believe I could have spent so many hours in the car, with no sign of help or information getting back to us.

As one of my fellow would-be travellers said: “How would the powers that be cope if there really was an disaster?”

Cost of big freeze could prove the final straw for some, warn business groups

Businesses in Scotland are facing a fresh week of financial misery as snow forces shoppers to desert the high street, and distribution networks grind to a halt.

With less than three weeks until Christmas, small businesses and retailers are counting the cost of the big freeze.

Sales have been hammered in December with whiteout conditions costing the economy an estimated 15 million GBP/day.

An upsurge in high-street sales in Scotland over the weekend coincided with a break in the snow, but with blizzard conditions returning yesterday – especially in the west – retailers are fearing the worst.

Ms.Fiona Moriarty, director of ‘The Scottish Retail Consortium’, said:

‘The past week has obviously been very difficult for retailers.

‘We had reports that shops had been very busy over the weekend when the weather improved, which was welcomed by retailers.

‘But with conditions taking a turn for the worse, there is a lot of nervousness among retailers about what will happen if this weather continues.”

Mr.Rory Mackail, chairman of the west-of-Scotland branch of ‘The Federation of Small Businesses‘, said many smaller firms could be devastated if the Arctic conditions did not let up. He said:

‘Deliveries are not getting through.

‘Our local heating engineer [in Dalton, near Lockerbie] has lots of work, but he can’t get out to do any of it. I was speaking to a taxi driver in Perth just the other day who was saying their business is almost done because people can’t get out and about, and one of my colleagues on the FSB who runs a florist is saying there’s huge demand at this time of year for gifts of flowers – but he has to dig himself out of his driveway first, and then probably dig through snow just to get into his shop.

‘Even when he does, there’s no way to get deliveries out. If your business is in a remote or rural location, it’s just horrendous. And it’s all completely out of your hands.’

Business chiefs at ‘Glasgow Chamber of Commerce‘ have warned that a prolonged cold spell could be the final straw for many businesses already struggling in the downturn, as they find it impossible to cope with staff shortages, delivery problems and a fall in trade.

Chief Executive Mr Stuart Patrick said:

‘We need to understand why we still have untreated local roads preventing people from getting to work, and trains being cancelled.

‘Widespread closure of schools has also resulted in many parents having to stay off work to carry out unplanned childcare duties. For some businesses the impact on their turnover may be the last straw.’

Many large employers decided to send staff home yesterday as the snow got deeper and deeper.

Engineering services firm ‘Balfour Beatty’ sent workers home at lunchtime from its base at Hillington, near Glasgow.

‘BT’ also called an early halt to the working day at many telephone exchanges. It said phone faults could not be tackled in the Glasgow area because engineers were stuck in traffic or snowed in. Some engineers were sent home early from telephone exchanges for safety reasons.

Scotland Stranded

Motorways and major roads were brought to a gridlocked standstill yesterday following a ‘perfect storm’ of snow during the morning rush hour.

As temperatures fell, many were preparing to spend a freezing night in their vehicles. The M80/A80 and M8/A8 were among the main roads worst affected, after congestion prevented gritters from making routes safe early on.

Many drivers and passengers, including families, were stuck for up to 12 hours, with some likely to be trapped for longer without food and water as they waited for help.

Some added to the chaos by eventually abandoning their vehicles.

‘Strathclyde Police’ set up a special events room, with representatives from the fire-and-rescue and ambulance services working with local authorities. The army was drafted in to help paramedics reach patients.

Pupils attending autism units in Glasgow were stuck in their schools temporarily when the vehicles that normally take them home could not reach the buildings.

Hotels in city centres were inundated with calls from commuters who were stranded when trains and buses were cancelled.

Forecasters said ice could be the next problem as temperatures plunged to as low as ‘minus 13C’.

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