16/12/2010

Winter Wonderland To Return

As national weather forecasters said that the North and West of the UK would be worst hit by another spell of freezing temperatures - snow showers are expected to return to NI later today.

With several centimetres of snow predicted to fall in some places, forecasters said the renewed Arctic blast could last into the middle of next week.

The Met Office locally has issued a weather warning which will be in force from noon on Thursday until 6pm on Friday and the NI Roads Service has prepared for the latest cold snap with gritters on standby to salt main thoroughfares.

DRD Roads Service's, Network Maintenance Manager, Colin Brown, said: "Roads Service is well prepared for the challenging conditions we are likely to meet over the next few days and will have over 300 people on standby to salt and clear main roads to help drivers cope with the wintry conditions.

"When snow is forecast, Roads Service salts scheduled routes at three to four times the normal rate and if we get a heavy fall of snow, we have a Snow Contingency Plan, which we activate," he said.

The Snow Contingency Plan concentrates on keeping the motorways and trunk roads clear and focus then turns to salting the other main roads.

If there are deep accumulations of snow, Roads Service can deploy up to 11 snowblowers, alongside the usual 120 gritters: "We will also call-in farmers and private contractors to assist with clearing snow, where necessary.

"Throughout this period, the weather will be closely monitored by six duty controllers who receive weather forecasts and monitor data from Roads Service's 17 weather sensor sites, located across the region," Mr Brown explained.
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"The forecast conditions, which indicate that rain will be quickly followed by heavy snow, are particularly difficult to deal with, as the salt can be washed off if it is spread too early.

"Roads Service will do our best to keep main roads clear and is making a special appeal to motorists that given these conditions that they are particularly vigilant, have patience and drive carefully.

"In the event of heavy snowfall DRD Roads Service advises motorists to listen to media updates and travel only if your journey is essential. Stick to the main roads as far as possible and leave plenty of time for your journey. Make sure you are prepared for delays in the very cold conditions," he concluded.

Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy, also provided an update on preparations for the predicted wintry weather.

The Minister said: "With a forecast for another cold period with a high probability of snow on Thursday, motorists are advised to plan their journeys and check the latest travel advice.

"Roads Service will continue to work around the clock with 300 staff, 120 gritters and 11 snowblowers to focus resources as agreed by the Assembly, in ensuring the main roads which carry 80% of traffic are salted.

"This is a massive logistical task involving staff working night and day to keep the main network open which is particularly important in the run up to Christmas when more people may be travelling on the busier routes.

"Roads Service provides at strategic locations, approximately 3,500 salt bins and 39,000 grit piles for use on a self help basis to help prevent the formation of snow and ice on pavements and untreated roads - and has been continually replenishing these during this cold spell," he said.

(BMcC/GK)

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