Winter's On Its Way And The Gritters Are Ready For Action!
With the winter season upon us, Mayo County Council is urging drivers to always drive to the prevailing weather conditions in order to keep safe on the roads throughout the county.
Gritters are geared up for call outs for the winter season and our salt barns have been filled to capacity ahead of this winter.
Mayo County Council delivers an Annual Winter Maintenance Service seven days a week throughout the season, which runs from the 15th October until 30th April each year.
Salt barns and salt storage facilities will contain over 5,000 tonnes of salt. Mayo County Council’s fleet of two 9 metre salt spreaders, twelve 6 metre salt spreaders, six 2 metre salt spreaders and three tractor spreaders are available when required. Precautionary gritting is normally done late in the evening, before the coldest temperatures arrive. Consideration is always made not to send gritters out too early, especially if rain is also forecast which could wash salt away. Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) procures bureau weather services to assist Mayo County Council in predicting when frost, ice or snow may occur on the road network. These services are currently provided by a combination of Met Éireann and Vaisala.
There are over sixty staff involved in the provision of the winter service during normal winter weather including the Winter Service Manager, Duty Engineers, District Engineers, and Winter Service Operatives. This number is increased during severe weather as resources allow.
Paul Dolan, Head of Roads, said: “Keeping the roads safe during winter is both a science and an art. Our carefully planned gritting routes cover 1,075 km of road across 23 treatment routes which equates to 100% of the national primary network, 100% of the national secondary network, 82% of regional roads and 3% of the local road network.”
“We monitor and analyse a range of forecasts so roads are treated when the salt will be most effective. Salt lowers the freezing temperature of water, making ice less likely to form, so we have to carry out precautionary gritting before any ice. We then undertake reactive gritting as needed in response to accumulations of snow and ice during severe wintery weather.”
“Even with the most careful and thorough planning, the use of special Met Éireann forecasts and the latest ice prediction technology, winter service is really a battle against the elements and ice-free roads cannot be guaranteed. Motorists have to play their part by taking extra care during wintry conditions. The best advice is in the rules of the road – drive with care even if roads have been salted, be prepared for road conditions changing over short distances and take care when overtaking gritters.”
Despite the resources that are applied to providing the winter service, ice-free roads cannot be guaranteed. The motorist should remember the following:
In Ireland there are a high-risk proportion of marginal nights when temperatures are very close to zero. This makes it more difficult to accurately predict ice than in colder countries. It takes several hours to organise salting operations and salt a route, so any journey may start or end on an untreated section of the route. In heavy rain or high winds, salt can be washed or blown away and the wet surface may subsequently freeze if the temperature falls below zero.
The Chairman of Mayo County Council’s Roads & Transportation Strategic Policy Committee, Cllr Damian Ryan said "October is the beginning of our winter season, and we make sure our gritters are ready, our salt stocks in the depots are high before freezing weather arrives.
Our crews will be on standby 24 hours a day until April, ready to deal with whatever the weather throws at us. We don't know how much, if any, snow and ice we'll see this winter, but I'm confident that our skilled teams are ready and we will do everything we can to keep the county's roads open and safe, whatever the weather."
Tips for staying safe on the roads this winter:
- When clearing snow, do not use hot water – this will melt the snow but will replace it with black ice!
- Always consider if your journey is necessary when contemplating driving in wintery weather. Check local traffic bulletins and if you have to drive, make sure all windows and lights are clear of snow or frost. Make sure you have de-icer and a scraper with you.
- Adjust your driving to the conditions. Brake earlier and gently and manoeuvre with care. Also take a torch, blanket, some food, warm clothing, a mobile phone and a spade with you just in case you have any problems.
- If you do have to abandon your vehicle in really bad conditions, be careful and try not to cause an obstruction. Emergency vehicles and gritters are large vehicles and may need to get past.
To explain more about what happens behind the scenes as Mayo County Council prepares for winter, Mayo County Council are advising people to visit www.mayo.ie/winter-service-plan. The site aims to get people talking about how science and data can be used to overcome the challenges of winter.
For information on the winter maintenance service in County Mayo, including maps of gritting routes, visit Mayo County council’s website: www.mayo.ie/winter-service-plan.