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Weather / ‘We started to wonder if we would make it home’: drivers stuck for hours in Kames traffic

Big thanks have been paid to gritting staff and coastguard teams who helped vehicles stuck in snow and cleared the road

Julie Dennison used some of the time to build a snowman at the side of the road.

SOME drivers were stuck in the Kames for up to four hours on Monday in a huge tailback of traffic caused by the wintry conditions.

With the problems running into the evening it left some pondering if they would even make it home – and a lack of mobile signal compounded things further, with those elsewhere worried if their loved ones were okay. 

But Shetland’s spirit often shone through, with folk helping each other out on the road – and one driver even used some of the time to make a snowman on the side of the road, as pictured above.

The coastguard and gritters with ploughs were drafted in to help out people who were stuck on the A970, which caused tailbacks.

Many of those who did get home at night came back to a house with no power following damage on the overhead network – with nearly 4,000 properties this morning without supply.

One of those stuck in the Kames traffic was council leader Emma Macdonald, who alongside her husband was trying to get home to Voe.

They left Lerwick at around 3.15pm but only got back to their house five and a half hours later – a journey that should take usually around 30 minutes.

Macdonald said people were helping one another by pushing cars, with some folk using shovels too.

“We left town around 3.15pm thinking that would be sensible given the deterioration in the weather however the roads very quickly became more difficult and it was a very slow journey,” she explained.

“We realised that there was something going on at the Kames after we were stuck behind a row of cars for an hour and by hour three started to wonder if we would make it home. It snowed the entire time and the road conditions simply got worse.”

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Macdonald said once they got moving it was clear many vehicles had become stuck in the snow.

SIC political leader Emma Macdonald. Photo: Shetland News

“I wasn’t convinced we would get through Lower Voe but we did and was incredibly grateful to get home,” she continued.

“All our gritters and folk who work on them did an incredible job yesterday, working in extreme conditions.

“I know that many folk spent a long time getting home yesterday and many got home to no electricity.

“Ours came back on after we had been home for an hour. I know that many houses still have no electricity and many roads are still not in a good condition.

“Many people have no option but to go to work or stay at work if they are providing essential services and I’m very grateful for all of those people who are going above and beyond to ensure they can continue to provide these essential services.

“I would say to anyone who can stay home to do so and to help check on vulnerable.”

Macdonald said one of the biggest challenges in Kames was the lack of information and mobile signal – leaving many folk with no real idea what was going on in front of them.

“Some better communication around how bad that particular area of road was could have helped people to make the decision to potentially not use it and would have helped people feel more informed if they were waiting for folk to get home,” she said.

“There were a lot of worried folk last night wondering if their loved ones were okay.”

Coincidentally SIC convener Andrea Manson was also stuck at the Kames, and she described the conditions as “absolutely hellish”.

Another person who was stuck in traffic was Julie Dennison, of Muckle Roe.

Her journey from Lerwick to Voe via Brae, alongside partner Roy and friend Cami, also took five and a half hours, having been stuck in the Kames for four hours.

Herself and Roy even managed to keep themselves busy by making a snowman on the side of the road – and Julie did some knitting too.

Dennison said they made little progress in the Kames between 5pm and 7.30pm. “We hed tae try an fin things tae amuse wirsels in da meantime, so I started makkin on da gansie I hed wi me, an me an Roy decidit tae mak a snowman on da verge.

“Anything tae brak up da monotony.”

The gritters and coastguard teams managed to clear the southbound side of the road, which drivers had to use to get out of the Kames.

Dennison said it took another hour to get from there to Brae to drop off their friend.

Meanwhile Dwayne Davies, from Busta, went out in his pick-up around the Northmavine area to pick up people stranded in their vehicles.

He said he pulled out a number of cars and also took the local Co-op staff home as they were stuck.

Davies added that he took a “couple of car loads” of people after a run to Sullom late last night.

“I managed to get them all home safe,” he said.

Meanwhile coastguard rescue teams from Sumburgh, Lerwick, Walls, Hillswick and Mid Yell were all tasked yesterday evening to support Police Scotland due to the adverse weather.

Rescue teams were tasked to multiple reports of vehicles off road and concerns for their occupants.

The teams were able to use their 4x4s to reach stranded motorists and check on their welfare, taking them to a place of safety if necessary.

Working alongside SIC gritting crews, teams were able to assist clearing a blockage of approximately 40 cars near Tresta, who were unable to move due the road conditions.

Chair of Shetland Islands Council’s environment and transport committee Moraig Lyall paid tribute at a meeting on Tuesday morning to roads staff – both those on the ground and in the office.

The meeting also heard that there are problems with gritting roads in the Nesting area due to sagging power lines. The road between Kergord and the Sandwater junction has already been closed due to the same issue.

Meanwhile North Isles councillor Ryan Thomson said he wanted to give “absolutely huge gratitude and thank” to HM Coastguard workers, SSE workers, gritter drivers and emergency service personnel for working in “horrendous conditions”.

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