ESCC says gritters were out in force after snow storms brought county to a stand still

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The county ground to a halt as a 36 hour arctic blast caused havoc across the county.

Schools closed, vehicles crashed and roads were closed as snow storms blanketed the county on Monday night and the following morning.

As conditions worsened and temperatures plummeted motorists were either forced to abandon their cars or face waits of up to ten hours to get home.

Sussex Police received almost 2,500 emergency and non-emergency calls in the 24 hours up to 9am on Tuesday, March 12.

Of those calls 228 were road traffic collision reports, two involved serious injury and 16 resulted in slight injuries. In total the police force received 771 road-related calls.

Among those in the trouble were a ‘lost’ family with a nine-month-old baby who were stuck in a snowdrift at Bodle Street Green, near Hailsham.

The baby’s mum had to give Polegate road policing officers Jonathan Cook and Mark Fowler a sat nav location so they could find and rescue the family at 11pm and deliver them to warmth and safety in Horam.

Many motorists blamed the problems on East Sussex County Council (ESCC), the authority in charge of roads, for not having done enough to prepare the roads. Claims dismissed by the council.

A ESCC spokesman said their 24 gritters, many from the Ringmer depot, were working around the clock to salt around 1,000 miles of primary roads on each run.

Gritters laid down almost 2,000 tonnes of gritting salt during a 36 hour period from Sunday to Tuesday - between ten and 15 times their normal amount, the spokesman said.

He added: “The problem was caused by a large amount of snow fall in a short amount of time and conditions were severe and there was heavy, slow moving traffic and the grit couldn’t do the job it normally would.

“Grit is not a magic fix. It takes moving traffic to drive over it to break it down to create the conditions for it to start melting the snow.

“The severity and speed of which the snow came down it just wasn’t as effective as it would normally be.”

Compass Travel, which runs bus services in East Sussex, also withdrew its services, restarting them during the course of Tuesday as conditions improved.

Dozens of schools across the area were closed on Tuesday due to hazardous roads.

In North Wealden, north-easterly gales posed the main problem causing giant pillows of snow to quickly pile up on narrow roads through Crowborough and Mayfield. The A22 was blocked near Wych Cross and Forest Row and cars were abandoned on Crowborough Hill and along the eastern end of the A272. Buxted was particularly badly hit with drivers and helpers co-operating to push cars through the blizzard. Uckfield resident Paul Watson said: “It was tricky for people who had to get to work early. There were metre high snowdrifts between Hadlow Down and the A267.”

Seaford, Newhaven, Peacehaven and Telscombe were hit hard with long delays for commuters using the A259, with many forced to abandon their cars and walk, or take hours to complete their journeys home.

Pictures on page 30 & 31