Freak hail storms were brief but caused widespread disruption
HAIL — what hail? No sooner did a freak hailstorm arrive and cause disruption to parts of Torquay on Tuesday than it vanished.
It came in a week that saw a mixed bag of weather across South Devon.
Youngsters had fun building snowmen and sledging at the weekend, and on Wednesday, following hours of snowfall, many headed to Dartmoor where the snow was particularly deep.
However, the weather also caused traffic chaos and disruption to people's routines, with the closure of some roads and schools in the region.
The freak localised hailstorm then fell on parts of Torquay on Tuesday morning just before 8am.
Police had to close the main Hellevoetsluis Way/Hamelin Way dual carriageway between Gallows Gate and Kerswell Gardens after a series of collisions in the icy conditions.
Torbay Council gritters were called by police to make the road safe.
The road closure caused tailbacks around Shiphay, the Newton Road and along the A380 as far as Penn Inn at Newton Abbot.
The road was eventually reopened at about 10am.
A Torbay Council spokesman said: "All of the gritting routes were pre-salted by TOR2. The primary routes were gritted at 6pm on Monday and the secondary routes at 5am on Tuesday.
"However, there was an intense hail event at 7.40am on Tuesday that resulted in a compacted layer of hail forming as ice in the wheel tracks on a few of the coldest roads, including Hamelin Way, Torquay.
"Our Streetscene Inspectors and TOR2 reacted immediately, but a combination of the intensity of the hail, the timing of the event and the closure of Hamelin Way at 8am due to a series of minor collisions, led to traffic being severely disrupted.
"This storm has affected much of Devon and neighbouring towns were also adversely affected. No amount of pre-salting could have prevented the immediate formation of ice and although we had been forecast sleet and rain, the freak storm was completely beyond anything we expected."
Weatherman Ernie Freed said: "It was very unusual because the temperature was up to 3.6 degrees centigrade. It appears that the hailstones were very localised around the Shiphay area. There was nothing at all in Preston."
In one home at Lincombe Drive the hailstones cracked a flat roof causing water to pour into the house.
One school bus was one and a quarter hours late. Tweeters reported that the number 26 route, serving Torquay Boys' Grammar School, was caught in the Shiphay Lane traffic standstill.
A spokesman for the Met Office said: "In the South West, we tend to have a mixture of rain, sleet and snow.
"On Tuesday, from about 2am, we had showers moving inland from the South West. We saw a few hail showers, some of which were quite heavy, and some thunder and lightning.
"Cloud can act as a blanket and raise ground temperatures but as it was a showery situation there wasn't the cloud cover so temperatures remained low.
"Temperatures tend to be at their lowest in the morning and there was quite a bit of disruption during rush hour."
Snow returned to parts of Torbay, Teignbridge and the South Hams on Wednesday morning, settling on higher ground but melting by lunchtime.
Temperatures are expected to rise heading into this weekend, reaching a maximum of 11 degrees on Sunday.