Rest centres open for stranded motorists

Active Northumberland has opened up two sports centres in the north of the county as rest centres for motorists stranded on the A1.

Over 150 stranded motorists spent the night at The Swan Centre in Berwick last night (Thursday 1 March) while a further 35 spent the night in Alnwick’s Willowburn Sports Centre.

Active Northumberland staff worked through the night to help the travellers who were brought in by police, or advised not to proceed on their journey. They were supported by Northumberland County Council, Northumbria Police and Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service.

In Alnwick, there was a steady stream of people arriving at the centre from early evening right through the night as police diverted motorists off the A1 at Denwick. There were  French, Polish and Irish nationalities among those caught up in the snow storm.

Active Northumberland Centre Manager at the Willowburn Sports & Leisure Centre, Steven Temple said: “We had some very cold travellers arrive through the doors last night - some had been sitting in their cars for several hours. We turned the heating up full blast and were able to provide blankets, air beds and sleeping bags that had been provided by Northumberland County Council to keep them warm and make them feel welcome.”

In Berwick, 150 motorists spent the night in The Swan Centre with staff experiencing a steady influx from 10pm.

Food was brought in at 11pm from Asda, Farm Foods and Morrisons by a local plumber Colin Easton, who had a 4 x 4 vehicle, and by the local coastguards. This morning McDonald’s and Asda provided breakfast.

Centre duty manager Michelle Gray said: “The response from the local community has been tremendous. We’ve had numerous calls from local people offering rooms for the night and local businesses, including a local take-away offering food, help and support.”

“A paramedic from Chirnside who was on a journey south, and unable to make it, called in  to offer his support. He proved absolutely invaluable in helping to sort out the medication of around ten people who did not have any extra supplies with them.”

Adult social care and community nursing services staff have been supporting the centres; arranging care, delivering medications and sourcing heaters and blankets.  This support will continue to be available if further help is needed over the weekend.

Officers from Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service also helped a dozen truck drivers who had pulled in on the A1 by Scremerston and had been there for over 20 hours. Two fire officers went out in a 4 x 4 to check on their welfare and deliver food to them..

Chief Fire Officer Paul Hedley said: “The snow and the strong winds have  combined to create real problems not just in Northumberland but right around the country.

“It has been a real team effort to keep people safe and the county moving wherever possible.

“The county council has been working alongside numerous agencies, local communities and the other emergency services to try and keep the roads open, but there has been an enormous amount of drifting snow which has made this extremely difficult despite our very best efforts.

“The rest centres have provided a safe, warm and welcoming environment for the travellers caught out by the bad weather and the fact so many people have used them shows their worth.”
 
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