Page last updated at 18:48 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009

Homes lose power after heavy snow

Cars stuck in snow on A38 in Devon
Some motorists were forced to abandon their cars on the A38

More than 4,000 homes are without electricity in mid-Devon as a result of heavy snow overnight on Thursday.

Power supplies to properties in and around the Exeter area are affected.

A spokesperson for Western Power said problems were caused by snow-covered trees falling on equipment, and ice building up on power lines.

The firm has drafted in crews from Wales and restored power to 12,000 homes but said supplies might not be restored to other homes until later.

Irene Evans, from Western Power, said: "Because the conditions aren't changing and the forecast has said there won't be a thaw tonight, there could be some more problems and other customers could lose power."

We want everyone to stay put unless it is an emergency
Brian Greenslade, Devon County Council

A total of 16,000 households were affected by the power outage.

Meanwhile, the snow caused other problems around the county.

More than 130 schools in Devon shut for on Friday and some school transport companies also cancelled services.

Exeter Airport reopened just before 0830 GMT after three snow ploughs spent the night trying to keep the runways clear.

North Devon District NHS Trust cancelled all outpatient clinics in South Molton, Ilfracombe, Holsqworthy, Torrington, Bideford and at North Devon District Hospital in Barnstaple.

Motorists stranded

All elective surgery was also cancelled and discharges were made on a case-by-case basis.

Day surgery patients who made it into the hospital were operated on, providing they could get home.

Drivers had to sleep in an emergency centre

Up to 22ins (55cm) of snow fell in parts of the county overnight on Thursday, leaving some motorists stranded and needing to be rescued from their vehicles.

About 200 people were trapped for several hours because of snow which began falling on the A38 at Haldon Hill, near Exeter, at 2100 GMT on Thursday.

An emergency relief centre was set up at Exeter Racecourse, at the top of the hill, and two teams from Dartmoor Rescue Group were scrambled to help stranded drivers and passengers.

Plummeting temperatures

The M5 southbound near Exeter was shut to keep drivers away from the rescue area and, a few miles west of Haldon Hill, the Army was called in to pick up about 60 people stuck on the A386 near Tavistock.

Traffic was also affected on the A380, A30 and A373.

Devon County Council warned motorists not to travel on Friday evening or overnight unless it was an absolute emergency.

The council said snow and moisture was expected to coat road surfaces in a layer of ice as temperatures plummeted to about -6C (21F).

Council leader Brian Greenslade said: "We hope that people will take our message seriously.

"It is going to be extremely dangerous out on the roads tonight and we want everyone to stay put unless it is an emergency."

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