Army drafted in as NHS struggles and snow strands thousands on roads and trains

Hundreds of motorists and rail passengers were left stranded overnight as extreme weather continues to wreak havoc across the UK.

Strengthening winds caused blizzards and drifting snow in some parts, bringing roads to a standstill and leaving commuters facing travel disruption for the fourth day in a row.

Weather warnings for snow (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Two police forces declared "major incidents" as the Army was drafted in to help rescue those trapped in their cars and provide assistance to hospitals and medics.

Rail passengers were stranded in frosty carriages overnight, while thousands of homes across the country were left without power.

Hampshire Police said they had called in the military to help evacuate people from the A31, while Avon and Somerset Constabulary said about 100 vehicles had become stuck on the A303 at Ilminster.

Devon and Cornwall NHS and Shropshire NHS have both asked for military assistance, which began at 6am on Friday.

The Army has sent 10 4×4 vehicles and 20 troops to Shropshire, while the Royal Marines have deployed the same resources in Devon and Cornwall.

An MoD spokesman said: "There are three UK stand-by battalions held at high readiness to respond to UK contingencies and emergencies, including support to local authorities."

Commuters reported being stranded in train carriages overnight with failing electricity and fluctuating temperatures.

South Western Rail wrote on Twitter that a service had got into trouble near Christchurch, Dorset, requiring a "rescue train" to be sent to it.

Shane White wrote on Twitter: "All sorts of problem all due to ice and snowy, apparently one train near Christchurch has welded itself to the track trying to move, obviously very high voltage going through these lines, but little current flow due to the ice build up."

In Greater Manchester, hundreds of drivers spent the night stuck on the M62, with police warning that wind speeds had reached 90mph over the Rakewood Viaduct, between junctions 21 and 22.

Dave Webb, 37, from Wakefield, told the Press Association he had been on the motorway for 10 hours.

"We came to a halt at about 5.30pm last night and have been here since," he said. "There hasn't been any snow since about 6.30pm but the wind is pretty strong and gusting."

A group of volunteers in Milnrow, Rochdale, braved the conditions to take hot drinks, food and blankets to those left stranded, and opened up a community centre for those seeking refuge.

Volunteers in Milnrow, Rochdale, take supplies to people stuck on the M62 (Eleanor Kelly/PA)
Volunteers in Milnrow, Rochdale, take supplies to people stuck on the M62 (Eleanor Kelly/PA)

A red weather warning - the second in 24 hours - expired at 2am, but amber warnings for snow are still in place for much of Scotland, the North East of England, and parts of Northern Ireland, running until 10am, and for wind and snow in south-western parts of the UK until 8am.

Up to 20in (50cm) of snow could fall over parts of Dartmoor, Exmoor and south-east Wales.

Yellow warnings for snow are also in place for vast swathes of the country for the whole day, while a yellow warning for wind covers the North East of England and Wales until midday.

Temperatures will once again be below freezing for many parts of the UK during the day, with strong winds making it feel even chillier.

Met Office meteorologist Steven Keates said: "We are not out of the woods yet.

"There's further snow to come, as well as a wintry mix of sleet and freezing rain.

"Even parts of London and the South East are not immune to seeing more snow through the afternoon - not as much as yesterday, but still enough to cause further disruption."

The whole of the Irish Republic is also on red alert, valid until 6pm on Friday, after being hit by the worst snow in 35 years.

Evelyn Cusack, senior forecaster with Met Eireann, warned that 16in (40cm) of snow could fall in parts of the east and south.

In Scotland,  the severe weather is causing travel disruption, with roads closed and dozens of drivers stuck in a snowdrift.

Troops were called in to transport medics to and from Edinburgh's two biggest hospitals after a request from NHS Lothian to the Scottish Government.

The extreme weather has seen health boards cancel non-essential operations and outpatient appointments on Friday, while NHS 24 has described its operations as being "stretched".

Princess Royal Maternity Hospital in Glasgow saw tiles fly from its roof under pressure from the extreme weather.

The so-called "Beast from the East", which met Storm Emma on Thursday, has already proved deadly.

A seven-year-old girl became the latest to die during the severe weather on Thursday.

The child, believed to be a pedestrian, was fatally injured when a car hit a house in Bodrigan Road in Looe at about 2.30pm, Devon and Cornwall Police said.

A 75-year-old woman was earlier found dead in a snow-covered street in Leeds, while Hampshire Police said a 46-year-old man died after a collision involving a lorry and van on the A34 southbound near Tot Hill services.

A 60-year-old man who died after being pulled from the water at Danson Park, near Welling, south-east London, on Wednesday, was named by the Metropolitan Police as Stephen Cavanagh.

#UKSnow - Your journey may be disrupted today due to adverse weather conditions. You are advised to check your journey before you travel: https://t.co/muRuIjxaOj

-- National Rail (@nationalrailenq) March 2, 2018

The National Grid withdrew a "gas deficit warning", reassuring households that domestic supplies would not be affected.

Nearly all train operators warned of cancellations and disruption again on Friday and hundreds more flights were cancelled.

Motorists across much of the UK have been warned against driving unless absolutely essential.

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