Snow on Friday morning led to the majority of schools being closed and many workers taking a snow day from work.
However, as conditions progressively worsened throughout the day, by mid afternoon, after significant snowfall, much of Basingstoke and the surrounding areas were either gridlocked or impassable.
The M3 was shut and treacherous conditions meant that cars were abandoned, motorists stranded and blizzard conditions gripped Basingstoke.
Amidst the chaos, community spirit was at the forefront, there were so many heroic stories including that of the off duty Tadley fireman Dan Pearce towing an ambulance with a woman in labour, free food and shelter being provided for those in need at Basingstoke Leisure Centre and so many tales of the human spirit riding high as people selflessly put others before themselves to aid those in need by rescuing, sheltering or driving to safety.
We experienced kindness first hand as having arrived at Lara’s Beauty in Oakley for a special birthday treat at lunchtime on Friday, by 5pm when we were due to be driving into Basingstoke for a night out, we were completely snowed in and only made it home thanks to the generosity of Lara and her kind husband Anthony who stepped into the breech and battled the elements to ensure our safe journey home in his 4×4.
Many questioned where the gritters were as people were forced to sleep on their office floors, book into hotels and eat snow after being stranded for over 9 hours. Pavements and walkways also remained largely untreated with many struggling to even walk in the treacherous conditions which left others injured.
Councillor Rob Humby, Executive Member for Environment and Transport at Hampshire County Council, said: “Our salting lorries have been out continuously since the severe weather began last Wednesday, spreading salt to combat ice and snow on the roads. On Friday, the weather conditions took an unexpected turn, contrary to forecasts earlier that day. The heavy snowfall made conditions hazardous despite the salt treatments on the motorways and main roads, and traffic incidents on the M3 caused the motorway to be closed in both directions with large volumes of traffic diverting through Basingstoke. This coincided with the normal Friday evening rush hour, quickly causing large traffic build up on the ring road and main routes in and out of Basingstoke. The rapid snowfall combined with minor accidents further exacerbated the situation and our salting vehicles were also caught up in the traffic, further complicated by the closure of the railway line between Basingstoke and Winchester due to heavy snow bringing down trees onto the line. As with any major incident we appreciate this had a significant impact on those caught up in the traffic and we will review our response, along with partner agencies, to identify any improvements that can be made for the future.”
Maria Miller MP has asked for an urgent review and made the following statement: “The freezing snowy weather we experienced on Friday afternoon left hundreds of people trapped in their cars for hours or forced to walk home in appalling weather conditions. In Basingstoke more snow fell than we usually see all winter. This caused real problems for anyone out on the roads. The ice and snow were so bad that three lorries jack-knifed on the M3 forcing thousands more cars into our local road network which caused gridlock throughout the town. With stationary traffic on major roads the Council gritting teams were not able to continue to do their job and even priority roads iced over.”
“I have asked the Government to hold an urgent review of why the M3 was closed on Friday afternoon and whether things could be done differently to increase the resilience of the motorway in icy conditions. These difficult weather conditions brought out the best in our community with astonishing acts of kindness. People with 4-wheel drive cars driving doctors and nurses to their shifts at the hospital; local residents removing fallen trees from an Old Basing road to let traffic through; and a team of 50 people turning out at the weekend to clear snow at St Marks School in Hatch Warren.”