Ireland 'better prepared' for cold winter
The Government has stockpiled three times the amount of gritting salt it expects will be needed to keep roads ice-free this winter, and is “better prepared than ever” to deal with severe weather conditions.
Speaking at the publication of the Government’s Be Winter-Ready information campaign, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said lessons had been learned from the severe winters of 2009 and 2010, when Ireland experienced some of the coldest weather since records began.
“Every winter blizzard and severe storm gives us an opportunity to improve our response to severe weather conditions and to make better preparations for the next incident. We are better prepared than ever before,” he said.
Some 60,000 tonnes of gritting salt have been purchased by the National Roads Authority and local authorities over the summer when prices were cheap to replenish stocks used last winter.
This brings the total stockpile to 210,000 tonnes, which is more than three times the amount that would be needed to treat the nation’s road network during the “average” winter.
In the winter of 2009 to 2010, some 133,000 tonnes were required, with 140,000 tonnes used the following year.
Mr Varadkar urged motorists to be extra vigilant on the roads, especially in bad weather when conditions are dangerous. He advised drivers to check their tyres and lights, and make sure they have a torch, triangle and de-icer in their car.
Minister for Defence Alan Shatter said it would not be possible to grit every road in the country, but a list of priority routes would be drawn up by local authorities in the event of a cold snap.
Information on the treated roads will be published on winterready.ie, a national website on how households, motorists, farmers and business owners can prepare themselves for cold weather.
It will be regularly updated over the coming months by Government departments, the Garda, the Health Service Executive, local authorities and transport providers. An information booklet can be downloaded from the website.
Mr Shatter said the central message of this year’s campaign was to “encourage people to be prepared, to stay safe and to know where to find help if you need it”.
He said national emergency plans are in place to deal with extreme weather conditions, and local authorities have individual winter maintenance plans.
The defence forces are “equipped, trained and regularly exercised simulating a range of weather related scenarios”, and the Civil Defence have 4,469 volunteers signed up to assist gardaí, local authorities and the HSE if needed, he said.
Met Éireann weather forecaster Gerald Fleming said the winters of 2009 and 2010 were “extreme cases”, and such prolonged spells of cold weather statistically happen just once every 10 years.
“If you look at the long-term trend, the winters have become much milder. We had a run of extremely mild winters through the late 1990s and the first decade of this century,” he said.
“Those two very cold winters that occurred in 2009 and 2010 were quite exceptional if you look at the 20 to 30 year period.”
He added that it was not possible to forecast the weather any more than three weeks in advance, so he could not say whether or not severe temperatures could be expected this winter.