MOTORISTS were last night warned the weekend could yet see double the amount of snowfall that caused chaos yesterday.
About 10cm of snow fell on Friday, causing problems on the roads and seeing more than three-quarters of the county’s schools closing.
And forecasters have predicted between 10cm and 20cm more will fall over the course of today and tomorrow. Emergency services have warned the public should prepare for treacherous conditions.
The Highways Agency sent snow ploughs out along the A34 and A40 yesterday and said it was keeping a close watch along with the M40.
And deputy leader of the county council Rodney Rose said it would step in the minute it felt the A34 was becoming a problem. Mr Rose said: “I always worry about that road. We have been dragged in before when the Highways Agency couldn’t cope and our team is always ready.
Our snow help desk will be open 24/7 until the situation starts to improve. “We have teams of gritters and ploughs out, and we have sent plenty of salt supplies to town and parish councils. I would advise everyone to stay inside.”
In December 2010 heavy snow left drivers stranded for up to 12 hours on the A34. At the time, the Highways Agency said it had done “everything it could” to keep the road open.
Last night Highways Agency spokesman Andrew Broughton said: “We are being reactive as well as proactive. Both the A34 and M40 roads are key areas for Oxfordshire and we do have a plan and are watching them keenly. We will continue to monitor closely over the weekend.”
He said the agency was warning drivers to check their route and weather forecast before their set off. Met Office spokesman Dan Williams said Oxfordshire should brace itself for snowfall until Monday.
He said: “There will be more flurries throughout Sunday and into Monday. The risk is as more snow comes down it will start to compact and become more dangerous. The snow showers and flurries are likely to continue over Sunday and through the night.
“It is likely that between five and 10cm of snow will fall each day, some parts of Oxfordshire will see more.” Thames Valley Police warned motorists to only use their cars if absolutely necessary due to the severe weather conditions today. Temperatures are expected to vary between zero and -2C. The police warning was sparked by a string of crashes.
Major roads across Oxfordshire were hit with delays yesterday, including the A40 at Cassington, the A40 Northern Bypass, and the A34 southbound between the Chilton Interchange and East Ilsley.
And the situation across the region’s roads deteriorated so much that ambulance crews used 4x4s to attend calls.
Spokesman for South Central Ambulance Service James Keating-Wilkes said: “Our priority is to get to people as quickly and as safely as possible in spite of the difficult conditions and this means that journeys are taking longer than they would normally.” Several Stagecoach services were also disrupted, particularly in the west and north of the county.
Transport to day centres for people with learning disabilities and older people was also suspended by Oxfordshire County Council.
ACCIDENTS CLOG ROADS
HAZARDOUS conditions caused major problems for Oxfordshire drivers yesterday as several crashes clogged up roads.
A five-vehicle smash at Twelve Acre Drive in Abingdon at 7.19am blocked the road for more than seven hours.
Police were on scene to move the debris as snow began to fall. One person was taken to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford with minor injuries.
Thirty minutes later police were called to the B4009 near Lewknor at the Hill Road junction when a Mini car and a white van hit head on.
The road was blocked in both directions at the Hill Road junction and traffic was diverted.
Ambulance crews were called and the female driver of the Mini was treated for shock.
She was not physically hurt, and the van driver was uninjured.
A police spokesman said: “Before setting out, drivers are being asked to check the road conditions and ask themselves whether their journey is absolutely necessary.”