Mountain Rescue crews have responded to nearly a year's worth of incidents in just three days, as the Beast from the East batters the region.
For a 60-hour-plus period, from noon on Wednesday and still ongoing, the volunteer members of the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team and North of Tyne Mountain Rescue Team have been providing a continuous service of 4x4 off-road capable ambulances to the statutory emergency services.
During this time, a shift system has been utilised in order to respond to more than 40 incidents during the three-day period. In the whole of 2017, the teams responded to 66 incidents, which was in itself a yearly record number of incidents.
The incidents over the last few days have included numerous blue light medical emergencies, urgent patient transfers, road-traffic collisions and assisting many stranded motorists. Some stranded motorists had been stuck in their vehicles in excess of 24 hours.
Yesterday, at 1pm, the teams were called to rescue eight vehicles and 17 individuals stuck at Carter Bar; the England-Scotland border on the A68. Two Mountain Rescue 4x4 off-road capable ambulances made their way to the Carter Bar road summit, at times having to manually dig the snow drifts to clear a route in horrendous conditions (see video above). On the way, the teams stopped and helped several motorists who were stranded, moving them to Otterburn.
While one of the team members walked over the border into Scotland to make sure there was not anyone trapped on the northern side, the remaining team members began checking the passengers and preparing to evacuate them.
There were two families of four; one of which were from the Netherlands. The motorists were well equipped but clearly not anticipating such horrendous conditions. The team had to battle through snow drifts which were more than six-feet high in places, with a windchill as low as -20oC.
Borders Search and Rescue Team were carrying out a similar operation on the northern side, rescuing stranded motorists there.
It took the team in their two Mountain Rescue 4x4 off-road capable ambulances 10 trips before everyone was safely evacuated to Byrness Youth Hostel where the Youth Hostel manager very kindly took everyone in, provided everyone with tea and toast and accommodated them.
Everyone was safely evacuated by 6pm, at which time the volunteer Mountain Rescue volunteers were re-tasked to another incident.
The public are still advised to only travel if it is absolutely essential, travelling only on open routes. Do not drive past road closed signs. As the region's roads are cleared, the public are reminded to check the weather forecast prior to travelling and ensure they have spare food, water and warm clothing in the vehicle.
The risk of snow drifting from the fields onto previously cleared re-opened roads remains real.
With the weekend approaching, many will be wanting to enjoy the snow on the hills nearby where driving is not required. Unless you have the experience to judge avalanche risk, avoid slopes with an angle of 30-45 degrees. Slopes of this angle that are loaded with snow can present an avalanche risk, and can be fatal.
All members of Mountain Rescue are volunteers, and thanks must be given to the families and employers of those volunteers who without question, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, give members the flexibility to respond to incidents with little to no notice.
The Mountain Rescue Teams rely on donations and charitable grants in order to provide the lifesaving service observed over the last 60 hours. During this period, an estimated £2,000 has been spent on fuel alone.