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Brrrrrrrrr!!!

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen,
What old December’s bareness everywhere!

So here we are again. Just nine months after the country ground to a halt because of the appalling snowfall in February the country is now ‘whited-out’ as one particularly enthusiastic local TV news reporter said last night.

Well, at least this time we were prepared for it. So that means it’s business as usual, right. We’ve all got snow chains on our cars, bags of rock salt scattered on the driveway and we’re all set. No way is the weather going to catch us out again this year.

Err, well not exactly. 400 of lorries have been stranded on the M25 in Kent and Surrey all night because the snow falling yesterday afternoon was freezing as soon as it landed. Roads all over the south-east are shut because of ice, snowfalls and broken-down vehicles.

I’m lucky (I think). The bulk of my job can be done from home, so there is no need for me to go out at all apart from the pick the children up from nursery. Others aren’t so lucky and have to try and make an effort to get in, either because they’re ‘essential workers’, they don’t have jobs which can be done from home via t’internet or because they’ve got no annual leave days left to take.

And because, despite this being the third big country-wide snow problem in 12 months, many people just aren’t used to dealing with snow, they cause chaos. Walking to back from nursery this morning I had to help push two cars out of ditches and up slopes. Others were slip-sliding all over the place.

It’s not the fault of the gritting lorries which were out last night and again this morning, it’s just that the freezing temperatures mean the fresh snow just freezes over the grit.

I’m just waiting for the newspaper articles, probably in the Daily Mail, berating the police/councils/government/previous government for not dealing with the problem, for not having the foresight (psychic powers?) to invest enough money in more grit, more gritters and more council pathway clearers.

I read a really interesting article on the guy who runs the council snow operation for the Highlands in Scotland recently. http://bit.ly/68FWiC if you are interested. Richard Guest has 600 people, a fleet of gritting lorries and 60,000 tonnes of salt piled high in depots around the region. Why? Because they get a lot of snow in the Highlands. Guest points out in the article that people in his region expect councils to spend money on that sort of equipment because they know that it will definitely be needed. Councils in the rest of the country probably have to make a choice between funding another three home carers or sorting out some potholes or buying another gritting lorry. I suspect they couldn’t win either way.

Actually, those of you who pay attention to this blog will recognise that I wrote that last paragraph in February this year about an earlier problem with snow. But it’s just as relevant this time round as it will be next time round.

Luckily, some of the problems we had last time have been heeded: I know lots of builders merchants who have been stocking up on rock salt and those who took a punt on putting in an order for sledges in August are looking a bit smug.

If you’re not selling any building materials, you might as well be selling something.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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