Exmoor snow falls on blizzard-hit A39 faster than it can be cleared
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.
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“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.