Page last updated at 14:53 GMT, Friday, 6 February 2009
UK prepares for freezing weekend



By Sarah Ransome
BBC Radio News

Many people were stranded in their cars on the A38

It was always going to be a night to remember, but for George and Jenny Shortis it should have been memories of their wedding-anniversary trip to the theatre that stayed with them.

Instead they said their lasting memories of the night will be of the hours they spent trapped in their car in heavy snowfall.

They were heading home from Plymouth along the A38 when they got caught up in the gridlock.

A stretch of the road near Exeter Race Course became a no-go area when they, along with hundreds of other motorists, skidded and stopped in the freezing conditions as the weather worsened.

And as the night wore on, the tailback grew longer and the snow kept on coming.

When I arrived at about 0030 GMT, a long line of red and white lights snaked up the wrong side of the dual carriageway near Chudleigh.

Police opened up the central reservation and tired motorists had little choice but to walk back to the ancient walled town.

Heart-stopping

Lorry driver Jeremy Aiken told me he was lucky as he could pull down the back of his cab and get a few hours of sleep, unlike others.

Some drivers were sanguine, others excited and a few were fed up - frustrated by what they said was the lack of information when things went wrong.

Rescue workers take a break after helping stranded drivers on the A38 in Devon

As the hours ticked by, small groups of strangers huddled in the cold trying to piece together what was happening and more importantly, when they could go home.

But with the temperature dropping and still more snow, it was obvious it was not going to be any time soon.

So eventually they walked through the freezing conditions to the emergency rest centre in Chudleigh town hall, where tea and toast were on the menu.

At the town hall volunteers gathered names and car registrations to ease the task of marrying-up owners with vehicles in daylight.

Sleeping bags and, blankets and steaming cups of tea were handed out and a few people managed to nod off.

Most sat up talking while waiting for daybreak and the chance to go home.

It was not until mid-morning when people were gradually allowed back to their cars, after a night to remember.

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