Wednesday, February 04, 2009

More snow on way for Britain

In Britain, meteorologists have warned more heavy snow is on its way [Sky News]. It will be welcome news for millions of children many of whom have seen their schools closed and taken advantage of tobogganing in parks and building snowmen [BBC]. But for commuters it poses more problems ahead. London and the surrounding counties were particularly hard hit on Monday with rail, bus and air transport networks being severely disrupted. Even rubbish collection has been affected in some areas [BBC].

While London thawed out, the west country and Wales saw heavy snowfall adding to the continued problems across the country. The economy is said to be losing billions of pounds every day due to the snow which has resulted in many workers remaining at home [CNN]. Many shops, already suffering from financial problems remained closed on Tuesday and some were stilled shuttered on Wednesday morning in many areas. Even where outlets were open, shoppers were few and far between. Icy pavements and freezing temperatures kept many at home.

The inability of the country to cope in such wintry conditions has led to criticism of local authorities for not gritting roads sufficiently. Many members of the public have condemned public transport companies for failing them. However London’s Mayor Boris Johnson said that it would be a waste of public money to have resources ready for conditions that happen so rarely. Indeed, the capital has not seen such conditions for around 18 years, but the chaos seen in London and the south-east could have been better prepared for as weathermen gave ample warning of the Siberian blast heading towards Britain. Laying grit on the roads is not however the cure all. It is about timing as well as having sufficient quantities [BBC]. Salt has to be on the road when the snow is fairly light, and most roads were well covered during Sunday evening. It is also advantageous to have traffic grinding the salt and snow together. London was least equipped to deal with the heavy snowfall and low temperatures since snow is rare and there are few gritting resources. But there are widely also differing resources across the home counties. Essex has around 60 gritting vehicles while Gloucestershire possesses only 12 such vehicles for the entire county.

If such condition become more frequent, local authorities will have to rethink their policy and emergency planning. For now Britain will have to put up with the chaos a small amount of snow brings with it.

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