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VIDEO: Delivery driver among 40 stranded overnight in two-metre snowdrift on Highland road

A delivery driver kept his engine running for 13 hours in a bid to stay warm while stuck overnight on a freezing Highland road.

Krzysztof Cylman said he had only managed two hours sleep as fierce winds made his van slide around the icy A835.

Around 40 drivers and passengers were stranded in their cars after being stuck in heavy snow on the road between Ullapool and Dingwall.

Police Scotland, Highland Council, NHS Highland, the Scottish Ambulance Service, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Bear Scotland and local mountain rescue teams were all involved in the response.

All cars and passengers were cleared from the road between 7am and 10am, with two people evacuated after emergency services carried out welfare checks.

Road maintenance crews worked tirelessly to clear the road, with police confirming it had fully reopened around 2.30pm.

The road’s junction with Braemore, however, remains closed.

Mr Cylman, a delivery driver for NGC Logistics who lives in Alness, had been stuck on the A835 since 7.20pm yesterday evening.

Krzysztof Cylman in his van. Picture from Krzysztof Cylman

He said: “I’ve never seen the weather like this before.

“I always have some extra food, water and juice just in case and it was very helpful in this situation, we weren’t offered any hot drinks or food.

“I’ve been told I can turn around and try go back to Ullapool for coffee or food, so I went to the town got coffee and hot food.

“Now I am at the A832 junction in the car park waiting for an update, the A835 is still closed and my only other route home is shut too.”

He had to keep his engine running through the night, as temperatures dropped below freezing point.

Mr Cylman added: “I only managed to get two hours of sleep due to the high winds. They were so strong that the van would slide occasionally.

“A Tesco delivery van ahead of me kept getting moved around by the wind due to the wind being so strong.”

His astonishment at the severity of the weather was shared by Dragos Floria, the owner of the local Aultguish Inn which was used by the agencies to co-ordinate their response.

Dragos Floria, who runs the Aultguish Inn. Picture by Sandy McCook

Mr Floria said: “I haven’t seen this happening in the last few years, and I have friends who have lived here for more years, they haven’t seen a winter like that so far.

“Last winter, there was just one week with snow in the nighttime and in the morning it was all clear, but now it’s just snow and snow.”

Police warned people against travelling to the area as around 22 cars became stuck in the snowdrift.

Welfare centres to support those affected were set up at Ullapool and Aultguish.

Superintendent Maggie Pettigrew said: “While I am pleased to confirm the reopening of the A835, I want to stress that motorists should not travel unless it is absolutely essential.

“We know that a number of people were requiring to drive to coronavirus vaccination appointments in the Ullapool area and surrounding regions today and the multi-agency efforts have ensured this was still possible.”

Ms Pettigrew thanked the different organisations involved stating that it demonstrates “outstanding collaboration” whilst thanking individuals and communities for their “professionalism and dedication” to assist those in need.

Donna Manson, Highland Council chief executive, added: “Our staff are working tirelessly to keep lifeline routes open where possible and to support our partners in the emergency services.

“The key message is we still have an amber warning in place for this part of the Highlands – Stay home and stay safe.”

Eddie Ross, Bear Scotland’s north-west representative, said: “Teams have worked tirelessly in difficult conditions as a collaborative effort to keep people safe and to reopen the A835.

“Bear teams will remain in the area to continue with clear-up operations throughout the night and deal with any further snowfall and drifting.

“Our 24/7 control room will also be monitoring conditions across the network.

“Driving conditions are still very challenging in the area, and we encourage motorists to play their part by only traveling unless it is essential.

“If you do need to head out please ensure you plan ahead before setting off, making sure to leave in plenty of time and that your vehicle is adequately equipped with emergency supplies.

“It is essential to drive to conditions at all times and to check Traffic Scotland for the most up to date information ahead of your journey.”

The Scottish Ambulance Service deployed numerous resources to assist, including its special operations team and a manager to assist those stuck.

NHS Highland chief executive Pamela Dudek said: “We are assisting in the response with support at welfare centres and are standing up the resilience Care for People group for the West Coast to ensure everyone in the area is kept safe and well during this adverse weather.”

A spokesman for the fire service said: “We mobilised support and specialist resources at 5.16am on Friday, February 5 to Aultguish Inn on the A835 Ullapool-Dingwall road as part of a multi-agency response to assist drivers and passengers stranded within their vehicles between Braemore Junction and Loch Droma due to severe weather.”

The affected area is covered by the current Met Office amber weather warning for “persistent and heavy” snow, which is set to last until 12pm tomorrow.

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