Our Response to Severe Weather - Feb/March 2018

Winter Maintenance and Roads

One of the biggest challenges for the Council during last week’s extreme snowfall was attempting to keep clear the huge volumes of snow from the 3,000km of roads in the Borders from the huge volumes of snow.

The winter maintenance response was a 24 hour a day operation for a total of six days, with crews experiencing very difficult conditions and snow drifts as high as 16ft.

A common scenario would see a team clear and grit a road to allow it to reopen, only for the strong winds to blow snow across and make the route impassable again.

How do you normally deal with winter conditions?

The Council has an established winter service plan updated every year which includes a total of 28 primary routes, covering 37 per cent of the road network.

These routes are prioritised for gritting and clearing of snow for a number of reasons such as:

  • Prime emergency routes
  • School transport routes
  • Well used roads by the public
  • Used by bus services

In normal winter weather, these routes are treated first, with the remaining roads being treated when time and resources allow.

We also have a primary network of pavements in town centres we treat first.

During severe and prolonged snowstorms, when resources mean all primary routes cannot be kept open, clearance will be attempted on the basis of the Police Snow Emergency Scheme, as detailed in the winter service plan.

In this event, the Chief Executive of Scottish Borders Council in consultation with Police Scotland will decide that conditions are abnormal and will ensure that resources are deployed appropriately throughout this period.

Was the winter service plan used last week?

In line with the plan, the Council focussed on keeping primary routes open throughout the extreme weather.

However, last week’s extreme conditions meant this was not always possible, with crews physically unable to reach some priority routes due to height of the snow in some places. These routes required to be dug out which takes significant time and resources.

As a result, and in line with the Police Snow Emergency Scheme, a co-ordinated approach was taken to use resources appropriately during this period and prioritise a number of other routes.

This decision was made by the Chief Executive who chaired the emergency response group in the Emergency Planning Bunker to provide access to care homes in order to support NHS Borders to continue to care for vulnerable and elderly residents.

Access routes to schools were also treated in an effort to speed up the reopening of schools this week.

In addition, there were a number of emergency situations which required emergency services to access vulnerable people, which again saw a co-ordinated decision made to deploy resources from within the Bunker.

Did you bring in additional resources?

Additional resources from within the Council were provided, with staff from waste services supporting their Neighbourhoods Operations colleagues.

The Council also brought in sub-contractors to provide further support, among them Borders Machinery Ring, and their assistance was greatly appreciated.

The support of the farming community to help clear routes was also a significant help.

How did you communicate road closures?

A wide variety of communications methods were used to inform the Borders public of road closures during the extreme weather. These included:

Operating from the Emergency Bunker, the Council’s communications team worked closely with partners such as Police Scotland to continually update its platforms.

However, the changeable nature of last week’s weather meant it was not always possible. An example was the A68 road at Carter Bar, which was reopened by trunk road operator Amey and Police Scotland with partners in Northumberland on Friday 2 March only for the road to close again soon after due to drifting snow.

It is also worth noting that during a series of amber and red weather warnings for snow ran from 6am on Wednesday 28 February to 10am on Friday 2 March, during which time Police Scotland advised the public not to travel.

My road is still not treated?

The Council is still to reach some roads due to the significant resources still require to keep open the rest of the 3,000km of road network. However, we are working hard to reach these roads.

What about pavements?

We have a primary network of pavements in towns we treat first, which are key routes to schools, medical centres, town centres and public buildings.

However, some of the primary footway network was not treated, with roads taking priority.

Your gritter pushed a pile of snow in front of my car/driveway/house – will you come back to clear it?

We apologise if this happened but our crews have been working hard to clear as many public areas as possible and do not have time to return to clear this snow again, unless it is causing an obstruction to a road.

Can I do anything to help?

We greatly appreciate all members of the public who helped their communities by carrying out tasks such as clearing paths and roads, providing information or checking on elderly or vulnerable neighbours.

If you would like to help in future, you could join your local Resilient Communities group, or if your community does not have such a group, start one up yourself. Find out more at www.scotborders.gov.uk/resilientcommunities

Have you got any salt left to treat roads?

We used a total of 5,800 tonnes of salt in a week from Monday 26 February to Monday 5 March.

However, we have no concerns over salt supplies, with a number of deliveries being made this week.

Can I request a salt bin refill at this time?

We are taking requests for any salt bins that need refilled – phone 0300 100 1800 or contact us online

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