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High road between Lynmouth and Porlock where the snow blows in faster than it can be cleared

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 25, 2013

  • Snow ploughs and blowers work to clear the A39 between Porlock and Lynton which was blocked overnight by snowdrifts PICTURE: GUY HARROP

  • A signpost on the A39 is almost buried in a snowdrift

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If there was a prize for blizzard-hit roads, then the high moorland coastal route between Porlock and Lynmouth would take the Westcountry title every time there's a dump of snow.

This week has been no different – the A39 has been closed for days as drifts up to six feet high were swept across the road that climbs some 1,200 feet above sea level.

"There have been times when we've had to suspend operations up there because the snow just blows in one end faster than we can clear it the other," said David Peake, highways service manager for West Somerset. "We could be clearing for hours and not make a bit of difference."

Mr Peake, who is in charge of snow clearing operations on the larger Somerset section of the lofty road, told us: "What happens is that it blows across wide open moorland – and it just keeps blowing in and blowing in – it's quite scary really.

"We've had four snow-blowers working for two days to get the road to the state it's at now. It's a massive exercise to get it clear and they've done tremendous work – all being well it should be clear enough for us to salt it."

One person badly hit by the A39 closure is the landlady of the highest pub along the Exmoor coast. "The snow looks absolutely stunning in the sunshine today – the only thing is we can't open because the road is closed," said Lesley O'Shaughnessy of the Culbone Inn.

Mr Peake said stranded motorists were a big problem. "The snow not only came down very fast, the majority of it also came down in late afternoon and early evening, which meant it caught out commuters.".

Exactly 50 years ago it was even worse. In the blizzard of 1963, the A39 above Porlock hill was the worst hit road in the country – back then the snow-drifts measured over 21ft in depth.

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2 comments

  • Stork  |  January 25 2013, 12:12PM

    I flew in from Tromso in northern Norway this Wednesday. It was minus 15 C the day before I left with loads of moreorless continuous snow. Having said that, it didn't bother the locals. Cars and buses were running on hard packed snow. Some of the vehicles had small steel studs built into the tyres, but most vehicles were running on " Winter Tyres " which have no studs. The main runway was being snowploughed by three big snowploughs, our aircraft was given a "wash and brush up" de-ice just before take off, and we took off a few minutes early. None of this chaos which happens in the UK, nor sleeping on the airport floors which we mugs have come to accept as normal. Of course, Norway is not in the EU and can therefore spend money on snow clearing, whereas we waste money, by still being in the EU.

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  • accom  |  January 25 2013, 10:18AM

    It's funny how they call 1,200 ft (400 m) the "high road" as if it's some mountain pass or something. In Switzerland they have roads around 8,000 ft and higher and hardly ever have to close roads or cancel trains or planes. The rest of Europe laughs at the UK every winter.

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