100 motorists forced to sleep at Lake District school after cars stuck in heavy snow

A dad has told how his family were forced to spend the night in a school with 100 other stranded motorists after heavy snow forced them to abandon their cars.

Mike Smith, 39, was stranded with his partner and three stepkids in Grizedale in the Lake District after a blizzard dumped two and a half foot of white powder on roads. The family were then left stuck in the snow for the next eight hours before police told them to leave their car and seek refuge in a nearby primary school.

Mike said a local chip shop donated dozens of portions of fish dinners to drivers before they’d bedded down on the floor of the school’s hall. And he feared they may have to stay two more nights at the school, with six inches of snow expected to fall on the region later on Sunday (December 3).

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His comments come as hundreds of electricity customers were left without power across Cumbria due to heavy snow. He said: “We have to probably wait until tomorrow and dig the cars out, and then probably try and get them back up the hill.

“But if it snows again, it will probably be another day after that. We spent the night in the school, sleeping on the floor, keeping warm. The whole floor was covered in people just sleeping.

“They put on the TV for us, so we were watching I’m a Celebrity, Strictly Come Dancing, stuff like that, just to keep people not thinking about it. And we had fish and chips that were donated to the local primary school. It was just mental, what an experience.”

The scene in Grizedale where motorists were forced to stay a night in a school after snow closed roads
The scene in Grizedale where motorists were forced to stay a night in a school after snow closed roads

Mike, a waiter at Centre Parcs, said his family had gone to the mountainous Grizedale rally stage during the morning from their home in Alston. They had parked with other spectators on the verges of the road before watching the cars take to the rough tracks, which had already been hit with some snow.

But when they decided to leave just before noon, fearing the wintry conditions, a blizzard made the narrow roads completely impassable. Mike said: “We got back to the car at 11.40am, and we didn’t leave the mountain until 7.20pm.

“I think there are 30 cars still stuck on top of the mountain. It’s absolutely mental.

“It was just forestry roads where everyone was parking on the verge. A local farmer came and pulled most of the cars out.

Mike Smith was stranded with his partner and three step kids in Grizedale
Mike Smith was stranded with his partner and three step kids in Grizedale

“But then the police got involved in the evening and advised everyone to abandon their cars and come back down for health and safety reasons. Mountain Rescue teams were up there as well advising everyone to come back down out the way.

“I would say two and a half foot of snow fell, easily. We took it all off the top of the car and within an hour, there was a good seven inches on top of the car again. Last night, another eight inches fell on top of that as well.”

Mike said they’d stayed at Hawkshead Esthwaite primary school, in Ambleside for the night. And while kids and elderly were given soft mats and blankets, he and his partner Sammy Tancock, 38, had to make do without any bedding.

He added: “It was different, it wasn’t comfortable. Some of the kids were given sleeping bags, and pillows donated by the locals. The elderly were also given blankets and pillows

“We were ruffing it on the floor, pulling a hat over us to block out the light. But the school and community have definitely looked after everyone. This morning, we’ve had tea, coffee and biscuits and they’ve brought in some toasters to make toast.

“And then about an hour ago, someone brought in loads of bacon sandwiches.”

A blizzard dumped two and a half foot of white powder on mountain roads
A blizzard dumped two and a half foot of white powder on mountain roads

Cumbria Police declared a ‘major incident’ following heavy snowfall on the region’s roads on Saturday evening. The force warned people not to travel to the county on Sunday amid reports of fallen trees, power cuts and blocked roads.

A spokesperson said: “A multi-agency response is ongoing to minimise the challenges that heavy snowfall is continuing to have on the county’s road network. Agencies are aware of multiple reports of vehicles stuck in traffic in the South Lakes area, particularly in the Bowness and Grizedale areas, due to snow.

“Extensive efforts are being made by Highways teams from Cumberland Council and Westmorland & Furness Council , who have been working through the night and all of today to clear priority routes so those impacted can be supported.”

Food provided to travellers who were forced to stay a night in a school after snow closed roads
Food provided to travellers who were forced to stay a night in a school after snow closed roads

The Met Office issued an amber warning for Cumbria following freezing temperatures, widespread frosts and patchy freezing fog. A spokesperson said: “Snow could be heavy at times across Cumbria with the odd rumble of thunder.

“10-15 cm of snow is possible before showers begin to ease overnight. A low pressure system will bring less cold, but more unsettled weather for southern parts of the UK from tonight onwards, although northern areas will continue cold with wintry showers and sharp overnight frosts.

“Many areas of England and Wales areas can then expect spells of rain for the start of next week, which could be heavy at times with a risk of flooding. Some higher hills across parts of north Wales and northern England could see further snow.”

Lancs Live – Cumbria