When Christina Craig left Salisbury Hospital where she works on Thursday afternoon at 4.30pm, she thought her journey home to Milton-on-Stour would be long, but she didn’t expect it to last 19 hours.
But having got stuck in the gridlock just past Chicklade on the A303, she spent the night in her car, only arriving home at 11.30am on Friday morning. ‘The journey was a nightmare from start to finish,’ she told Gillingham & Shaftesbury News.
‘Either the roads had not been gritted or the gritting had not worked, and the roads weren’t ploughed properly.’
Christina reached Chicklade at 7pm and then it was stop/start until close to the turn-off to Mere at 1am, when she became completely stationary. ‘There had been a snow slide and there was a snow drift all over the road,’ she said. ‘A snow plough went past me once, and then word filtered down through the cars that the snow-plough had up-ended itself.’
Having decided against taking the Shaftesbury turn-off 12 hours earlier, at 4am she turned the car around and went back to it – only to discover that the road was completely blocked by cars that were unable to move. ‘I could see the turn-off but I just couldn’t reach it,’ she said. ‘I sat staring at it for several hours.’
Thankfully, Christina had set off with a full tank of fuel which allowed her to keep the car engine running periodically so she stayed relatively warm. She was also wearing layers of warm clothing and had something to eat.
‘Luckily I had taken a packed lunch but decided to have a hot meal from the canteen instead, so I had that to eat,’ she says. ‘But I heard the people at the services were very good – people were going backwards and forwards with hot drinks and food, and to use the loo. People were running out of fuel, though – leaving the engine running with the heater on, you could see the gauge counting down.’
She admits to crying a number of times. ‘What struck me was the lack of anyone in authority,’ she continues.
‘In all that time all I saw was a police officer once and a highway patrol van that drove past a couple of times but was not stopping to check that anyone was ok. The people who had a reassuring presence were the lorry drivers in their high-vis jackets. They were the ones walking up and down checking on people.’
Just before 11am the traffic moved and she was able to take the Shaftesbury turn-off where her husband, Chris, met her and drove her home. ‘I was in no fit state to drive by then,’ she says.