Madness on the moor

AN INVESTIGATION by the Independent has revealed chaos caused by thoughtless drivers at the height of a raging blizzard on one of Saddleworth’s most notorious roads.

CLEAR ROAD: Calm before the storm
CLEAR ROAD: Calm before the storm

Valiant council teams had to man a locked safety gate to prevent arrogant travellers from trying to navigate  the A635 Greenfield-Holmfirth road and build a barricade of snow at the Yorkshire border to deter more drivers from driving into the area.

But, as these graphic pictures show, some motorists completely ignored warnings and plunged on in hazardous conditions.

Our heroes of the snows – Oldham Mountain Rescue Team – their specialist vehicles and teams had to aid more than 20 drivers and passengers some who had been stranded for more than four hours on the high sierras.

Their leader, Mick Nield, who headed up the life-saving operation, said in one case rescue teams found five occupants crammed into a small saloon car – with one wearing shorts in the sub-zero temperatures.

“We sorted the initial vehicles,” said Mick. “Then we found another half dozen or so in the same situation along with a huge wagon.

“A JCB digger from OMBC assisting but other motorists who were ignoring the road closed signs were not helping the situation.

HELP: Conditions worsened and cars got stuck
HELP: Conditions worsened and cars got stuck

“In all, more than 20 vehicles were assisted and the road was eventually cleared with police officers on both ends of the road. The council workers quickly cleared the road of snow.”

And he added: “Drivers, however competent, should remember it can be the driver in front of them who gets into trouble and the knock-on effect can leave them stranded.”

One of the problems is drivers travelling from Greenfield can be lulled into a false sense of security without realising the A635 rises to more than 1,500 feet – a dramatic difference to road and weather conditions.

Craig Dale, head of highway operations for OMBC, said his team had closed and locked the snow warning gate near Dovestone reservoir.

But drivers crossed to the other side of the road to continue towards Holmfirth – plunging into the wind-torn blizzard.

“They made the situation very dangerous,” Craig declared.

“We actually had to put a man on the gate to physically deny them access. It was madness.

HELP AT HAND: Oldham Mountain Rescue saved stranded drivers
HELP AT HAND: Oldham Mountain Rescue saved stranded drivers

“Things were even worse coming into Saddleworth from Holmfirth. Drivers just would not stop. In the end, my men used a digger to build a high wall of snow to get them to turn back.”

And in a graphic interview, one of the rescued motorists, retired Delma-Rose Yorath, who was stranded on the A635 before the snow gate closed told of her ordeal.

She had set out from her Failsworth home to make her regular weekly journey to visit a friend in Barnsley when she ran head-long into the white-out.

“It was terrifying,” she declared.  “When I drove up the road from Greenfield there were no ‘snow warning’ signs – otherwise I would have stopped.

“My estate car was being buffeted by driving winds and snow. Three or four vehicles were stuck right on the tops in front of me.

“I just could not move my vehicle at all. I was totally snowed in. I was there for over four hours when the mountain rescue team arrived.

“The two rescuers who spoke to me were superb telling me they would help me – and they did.

“One of them drove my car, reversing it in a treacherous part of the road, the other pushed and pulled it and helped him manoeuvre it so that it could be turned around.

WHITE-OUT: Nightmare blizzard conditions
WHITE-OUT: Nightmare blizzard conditions

“Then one of the team drove my car back down toward Greenfield before heading back to the top of the hill to rescue other motorists.

“These people are wonderful, I cannot praise them highly enough,” she said. “The weather was dreadful with blizzard conditions but they worked hard with shovels to rescue stranded motorists like me.

“I will ever be grateful for their help and selfless assistance and I shall be sending a donation for their funds.”

Inspector Dan Milovanovic, who heads up Saddleworth and Lees policing team, said his officers had worked closely with mountain rescue team and OMBC on the rescue operation.

“At one point, there were up to 10 cars a minute trying to get past the snow barrier across the road. It beggars belief.

“Drivers just do not seem to realise they not only put themselves at severe risk but police, mountain rescue and public service teams who are there to save lives.”

OMRT must strap

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