Earth­quake? No, 6ft hail­stone drifts that fell on Devon in just one night

Daily Express - - NEWS - By Mar­tyn Brown

IT was the day a lit­tle English town was plunged into a new Ice Age.

What looked like glaciers en­gulfed cars, and streets were trans­formed into frozen wastes.

Tor­ren­tial down­pours over­whelmed the area be­fore hail­stones drummed down yes­ter­day, caus­ing drifts up to 6ft deep and turn­ing roads into skat­ing rinks.

More than 100 peo­ple had to be evac­u­ated from their homes in Ot­tery St Mary, Devon. At least 25 were air­lifted to safety or res­cued by fire­fight­ers. But in the mid­dle of the dark night of chaos, there was good news, too.

Preg­nant Juliet Hall was res­cued twice by po­lice and Coast­guards on the flooded A30 – first from her hus­band’s car and then an am­bu­lance. She even­tu­ally gave birth in hospi­tal to a son, Nathan. An­other woman gave birth in the back of her car af­ter it crashed in the treach­er­ous con­di­tions.

Emer­gency ser­vices were in­un­dated with more than 150 calls as the floods rose to a depth of 5ft.

The freak storm struck just af­ter mid­night fol­low­ing a day of al­ready heavy rain. The hail­stones then blocked drains as the rain con­tin­ued.

By 5am the en­tire town was cut off and res­cue he­li­copters were scram­bled. Emer­gency crews also sent in 4x4 ve­hi­cles, fire en­gines and boats to take res­i­dents to an evac­u­a­tion cen­tre at the lo­cal hospi­tal.

One fire en­gine be­came stuck in a 6ft drift and a farmer was feared to have lost 500 sheep in a field buried un­der sev­eral feet of hail and sleet.

Fire ser­vice spokes­woman Su­sanne Reed said the sit­u­a­tion was “ab­so­lute chaos”, the worst con­di­tions in 25 years. She said: “It started just af­ter mid­night when we were out res­cu­ing peo­ple stuck in their cars. It got worse and worse.”

Tony Fabry, who runs the town’s post of­fice, said: “At one point I was watch­ing beer bar­rels, sand­wich boards and even a chil­dren’s slide float­ing down the road.

“It was ab­so­lutely hor­ren­dous. It was a night­mare and it hap­pened so quickly.”

Pic­ture: THEO MOYE / APEX

THE BIG FREEZE: Ve­hi­cles locked solid in blocks of ice and snowy wastes af­ter a freak storm left hail and rain in frozen drifts. Right, a boy tries to clear a path through the chaos

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