M55 reopens after sudden "microburst" of snow and hail causes 24-car pile-up on motorway
The M55 has reopened this morning after a sudden snowfall caused chaos on the carriageway overnight.
Both the eastbound and westbound carriageways were shut completely at 9.55pm on Tuesday (April 2) after a "freak snowfall" led to a series of collisions.
Lancashire Police said the mini-blizzard caused accidents on both sides of the M55 between junctions 1 and 3, including a pile-up involving 24 vehicles.
The pile-up happened as snow and hail fell unexpectedly between M55 junction 1 at the M6 interchange at Broughton and junction 4 at the A583 in Blackpool.
Lancashire Road Police described the scene as "carnage", but confirmed that no one had been seriously hurt in the crash.
North West Ambulance Service said it had sent five ambulances to the scene along with a rapid response vehicle and an on-scene commander to oversee the operation.
A NWAS spokesman said: "We were called at 9.55pm to the scene of a major accident on the M55 near Kirkham.
"It seems incredible, but there are no reports of anyone being seriously injured in the incident.
"We treated a lot of people at the scene and it appears there were dozens of walking wounded.
"Two people were taken by ambulance to hospital. They were taken to Blackpool Victoria with minor injuries."
Motorists, who narrowly avoided the pile-up, have described it as "carmageddon", after the sudden downfall caused a "complete whiteout" over a 200 yard stretch of carriageway.
Police first stopped traffic between Preston and Kirkham shortly before 11pm after 24-vehicles crashed into each other in the blizzard-like conditions.
Officers then made the decision to close the carriageway completely in both directions for the safety of motorists.
A spokesman said: "The M55 was closed in both directions due to a sudden microburst of hail and snow causing a 24-vehicle pile up.
"Thankfully, there were no serious injuries. But it was carnage."
The freak downpour of snow and hail is understood to have been extremely localised, with fine weather conditions reported less than half-a-mile away in nearby Kirkham.
At 11.45pm, trapped traffic was released and diversions were put in place for traffic heading to the the M55.
At 1.30am, Highways England reported that the closed carriageway was still being treated and vehicles and debris recovered.
The eastbound carriageway was reopened between junctions 3 and 1 at 2.20am.
The reopening of the westbound carriageway followed an hour later at 3.25am.
Natalie O'Neill, was one of the people caught up in the chaos.
She said: "It was an awful incident. About 20 to 30 car pile-up from between Preston to Kirkham junction.
"There was about 200 yards of sleet and snow, it was horrible to witness.
"Nobody knew what was going on until we came to a stand still. Unfortunately, some of us couldn’t stop our cars in time which ended up in the pile up.
"It's such an awful freak road accident."
Colin Ackerley was one of the lucky motorists who avoided the pile-up.
He said: "It was so sudden a downfall, a complete white out. I made it through but was nearly sideways at times as I slowed down.
"Lots of cars were off the road, I just hope the only damage was to cars and not people."
Jonathan Fenton, who travelled past the pile-up, described the scene as "carmageddon".
"Having travelled through it, accident would be a bit of an understatement", he said.
"I would call it absolute Carmageddon. There were approximately 20 cars totalled."