AROUND 60 vehicles became trapped in freezing conditions when a freak snow blizzard hit Hyndburn on New Year's Eve.
Trapped motorists called for help when the A56 Easterly bypass was covered in thick snow at around 10pm last Wednesday. Police immediately launched a rescue operation and headed off in 4x4 vehicles and towing equipment. They also called for assistance from the Rossendale Mountain Rescue Team.
Inspector Phil Cottam, from Accrington Police, said the weather caught many motorists off guard and was disappointed drivers were not better prepared after repeated warnings about the climate.
He said: "The road quickly became impassable and we had 60 cars which were trapped up there in freezing conditions. We were extremely concerned about the motorists trapped in the snowdrifts so we put up traffic diversions and closed the bypass at both ends. We got together with officers from Clitheroe and the mountain rescue crew and we were able to drag most of the vehicles out of the snow and pull them around.
"We sent them the wrong way down the A56 to get them off the tops. It was clear some of the motorists had not heeded the advice and been out without any winter clothing. The snow had come down quickly and caught a lot of people off their guard. We told most of the people to remain in their cars with their engines running and we managed to free them within an hour and a half.
"It was quite dangerous at that time and we are grateful to the mountain rescue team who were a great help. Luckily it did start to thaw at about 1am but then we had the problem of ice on the roads and there were minor road accidents."
Observer weatherman Roy Chetham said that the bad weather wasn't exceptional for the time of year, with just under an inch of snowfall.
He said: "The amount of snow that we got was nothing outstanding - a lot of it was sleet and rain and it was melting all the time. We often have this type of weather, particularly around the New Year, but I know that it did cause a lot of problems for people travelling to parties."
He added that the forecast for the immediate future was for the weather to stay mild but couldn't rule out the chance of a cold snap.
Insp Cottam said that it seemed most people opted to see in the New Year at home. He said: "The town was relatively quiet and most of the pubs were not as full as last year. There was quite a good turnout in the Willow Street area near the clubs. Most people stayed indoors and celebrated at home."