Winter comes back to haunt farmers as lambs die in snow

Farm worker Kyle Maude with lambs rescued from the cold
Farm worker Kyle Maude with lambs rescued from the cold
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ARCTIC conditions which brought heavy snowfall and gale-force winds sweeping across Yorkshire left tens of thousands of homes without power and wreaked havoc on farms in the region.

Farmers, in particular, were left counting the cost of the sudden cold snap which is thought to have caused the deaths of thousands of lambs.

Snowstorms which battered the north of England left around 40,000 people without electricity yesterday as the icy weather and winds approaching 70mph caused overhead power cables to break, resulting in around 200 faults.

Whitby and the North York Moors National Park were among the worst-affected areas, with more than 12,000 homes and businesses hit by power cuts. Engineers were working into last night to help restore power.

The Met Office had issued severe weather warnings for snow and ice as last week’s unseasonal sunshine made way for wintry conditions. But the severity of the change caught many by surprise, among them one group of campers on the North York Moors who woke yesterday to find themselves stranded in 3ft of snow.

The wintry weather caused heartache for many Yorkshire farmers, who until this week had enjoyed perfect conditions for lambing.

Dry and warm weather in March had meant the traditional birthing period for lambs began early and many farmers found their flocks trapped in fields following the rapid snowfall, leading many to succumb to the elements.

The Yorkshire Post received reports that one farmer had lost as many as 1,000 sheep in North Yorkshire while other farms around Malham, Huddersfield and Saddleworth were also reported to have lost stock.

A spokeswoman for the North York Moors National Park said: “It does seem that a number of lambs were lost overnight due to the snow. Obviously the lack of power exacerbated that problem. If the snow had happened at the start of lambing season it might have been different.

“We have had reports of farmers who were out looking for lambs at 11pm to midnight with torches, trying to bring them in. However, if there was no power for the houses or farm buildings then they would not even have been able to get them warm in there.”

Heavy overnight snow also caused severe traffic problems across the region yesterday. The M62’s eastbound carriageway was partially closed between Leeds and Manchester as vehicles became stranded. Westbound traffic remained very slow throughout the day, with massive tailbacks stretching from junction 22 to junction 25 yesterday afternoon even after the ice and snow had cleared.

The A57 Snake Pass, which links Sheffield and Manchester, and the A628, which runs through the Peak District, were both closed.

Last night ploughs and gritters were operating on Snake Pass, with officials set to make a decision on whether to reopen it this morning.

In North Yorkshire, 3ft snow drifts caused problems for motorists, mainly on routes across the North York Moors.

A snow plough sent to rescue a driver stuck on the A169 near Pickering slid off the road and struck a power line. Gritters were sent to the scene to assist, police said.

Three trucks were also stuck on the B1248 near Wetwang, in the Yorkshire Wolds, and firefighters were called out to several flooding incidents in places including Main Street, in Ebberston, near Pickering.

Adverse weather conditions caused problems for passengers at Leeds Bradford Airport. Flights to Palma, Malaga and Alicante in Spain were hit by two-hour delays while passengers heading to Brussels, Amsterdam, Dublin, Riga and Kaunas in Lithuania faced a one-hour wait. Services were said to be “virtually back to normal” yesterday afternoon.

The chaos also spread online as the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive’s Travel South Yorkshire website crashed.

Humberside Fire and Rescue Service responded to 16 structure” incidents overnight and yesterday morning. These included lead, tiles and aerials being blown from roofs, and an incident in Mansel Street, Grimsby, which was cordoned off when the roof of a derelict building was blown off and through an empty neighbouring property.

Visitors to the Marfit Head Farm campsite, high on the North York Moors, woke to find themselves surrounded by waist-deep snow yesterday, in striking contrast to campers there a week ago who were sat in T-shirts and shorts enjoying barbecues.

Farmer Angela Hodgson, who owns the site, said: “There are people camping and it’s 3ft deep. They just want to get out and go home, I think.”

Mrs Hodgson said the farm, which is situated alongside the A169 between Pickering and Whitby, was used to snow in April but not the amazing contrast in weather conditions.

She said they were trying to get a generator going so their dairy herd could be milked.

Forecasters said between 15 and 20cm of snow fell in high parts of the north of England overnight on Tuesday, but had cleared by yesterday afternoon.

No more snow is expected today, with forecasters predicting a cold and sunny start to the day across Yorkshire, clouding over during the afternoon, with maximum temperatures of 9 °C.