EMERGENCY services have praised local people's community spirit after unprecedented snowfall caused gridlock across South Cumbria.

Cumbria Police declared a major incident on Saturday, December 2, to minimise heavy snowfall challenges on the county’s road network, particularly to the South Lakes and Millom areas, due to the challenging conditions.

The multi-agency response was launched after the Met Office issued an amber warning for snow, making roads impassable and resulting in people having to abandon their vehicles.

Several community venues were opened to offer support to those impacted by the weather and emergency services worked to help people stuck in vehicles.

At Grizedale Forest, approximately 500 vehicles had to be abandoned, and people were stranded as they attended a rally car event, which had to be cancelled at short notice. A significant multi-agency operation, assisted by mountain rescue teams, was conducted to escort those stranded to a place of safety. 

Reception centres, supported by local communities and businesses, were set up to accommodate those who had to abandon their vehicles.

Throughout the weekend, Cumberland Council and Westmorland and Furness Council highways teams tackled challenging conditions to clear and treat impassable roads and priority routes.

Agencies worked closely with Electricity North West to assist them in supporting communities who have lost power. Engineering work is ongoing as efforts are made to restore power as quickly and safely as possible to those who remain without electricity.

READ MORE: Driver stuck in Hawkshead during Cumbria snow praises community

Superintendent Andy Wilkinson, Cumbria Constabulary, said they experienced a 'much higher' volume of snowfall than what was forecast. 

Mr Wilkinson said: “This had a significant impact on those within our communities and those visiting the county. Hundreds of vehicles had to be abandoned and hundreds of people were supported by the multi-agency response.

“A significant amount of work has been undertaken by agencies to identify those most vulnerable and provide the appropriate support to them.

“Highways teams have worked round-the-clock to restore and maintain the road network in what were extremely difficult conditions.

“Once again, Cumbrian communities have played their part in assisting people who needed support. I thank every single member of the public who volunteered and helped those affected this weekend.

“I would also like to thank everyone involved in this multi-agency response. Long hours have been worked by many people to keep people in Cumbria safe, which is what has been achieved.

“Road conditions continue to be challenging and are expected to remain so this week due to the ongoing cold weather. Therefore, I would continue to ask people to drive with extreme care and attention. Please allow extra time for any journey.”

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Chief Fire Officer Rick Ogden response said: "We were part of a multi-agency response launched following heavy snowfall that resulted in widespread challenges across the county.

"I am immensely proud of the role Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service played, alongside our emergency services and local authority colleagues, in response to the extreme conditions we faced at the weekend.

“Our Firefighters had an exceptionally challenging weekend but, once again, rose to the challenge and worked tirelessly to help those in need."

In addition to gritting major routes Cumberland Council and Westmorland and Furness highways crews supported other partner agencies such as Electricity North West to gain access to areas where they have power outages. 

Several roads are still impassible due to snow, including the A5093 between Millom and Hallthwaites, the A592 between Troutbeck and Hartsop, the B5289 both ways between Seatoller and Buttermere, the Corney Fell Road and the Hardknott Pass between Cockley Beck and Boot.

However, according to the Met Office, the weather conditions are increasing over the week, with the weather reaching temperatures of 10 degrees in Kendal and 11 degrees in Barrow.