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Weather Update (04/01/10)
Conditions: Weather conditions currently experienced are among the most severe for 30 years. The combination of heavy snow and sub-zero conditions across the entire Highlands for 16 days has made snow clearing extremely difficult.
Review of current road conditions: Priority for snow clearing and gritting has been given to Priority 1 and 2 roads, which provide access to main roads, which include hospitals and other key locations, and bus routes. Priority 1 and 2 routes have been treated and are passable. With a respite in snowfall, increasing attention is now being given to Priority 3 and 4 routes, ie residential areas and rural areas. Attention will continue to be given to providing access to vulnerable people.
Where possible, householders are being urged to help with footpath clearance when clearing their entrances and by giving special consideration to elderly and vulnerable neighbours.
Thanks have been extended to Council staff for working extensive hours over a prolonged period to keep roads open.
Forecast projections: There is no sign of a let up in the weather with sub zero conditions forecast for the next seven days. There is the potential for more snow later today and again on Wednesday.
Salt Supplies: The Council buys in 60,000 tonnes of salt each year. During this period, it is estimated that we are using up to a maximum of 2,000 tonnes of salt/grit per day. We are moving salt between depots to ensure there are supplies where they are most needed. We also share supplies with Scotland Transerv, who are contracted to the Scottish Government to maintain trunk roads – the main routes in the Highlands. Our current supply of salt is 10,000 tonnes. Our salt comes from Northern Ireland and arrives by sea. 3,000 tonnes are expected tomorrow (Tuesday) at Inverness and 400 tonnes has been delivered to Fort William today (Monday).
Budget: The budget for winter maintenance for 2009/10 is £4.9 million. In emergency situations, the Council will devote additional resources to keeping roads open. In deploying staff, the Council has to be mindful of the need for staff to have reasonable rest periods. Many staff will have been working continuously since the start of the adverse weather. Private contractors will be used, where needed.
Caring for older and vulnerable people: The Council has been making every effort to continue home care services to older and vulnerable people and is urging the public to act as good neighbours to older people, making contact with them and offering help. The Director of Social work has expressed her gratitude and appreciation for the efforts made by Out of Hours and Care at Home staff, ensuring that vulnerable people were not left without services during the challenging weather conditions over the festive period. She is aware of a number of situations where staff have demonstrated remarkable commitment and determination, and where family members have helped out too.
Bin collections: The Council will make every effort to clear bins where there is safe access to properties. The majority of homes have received a service, but those living in some rural areas and residential areas with cul de sacs will not have had their bins collected because the 26 tonne vehicles have difficulty in manoeuvring in heavy snow. We will endeavour to collect bins as soon as possible.
Council houses and properties: Council maintenance teams have responded effectively to requests for repairs to Council houses. There has been a significant number of calls associated with frozen pipes and heating systems but a programme of improvements to housing insulation levels has helped keep our tenants homes warm and dry. The maintenance teams are ready to respond to any new problems, such as gutter repairs, which may emerge when the thaw arrives.
Schools: Head teachers/responsible premises officers are being asked to identify needs for access to schools, car parks, playgrounds and emergency exits before schools return on Monday 11 January after the festive break.
Customer Services Centre: From today (Monday) the Service Centre is open from 8 am – 6 pm Monday – Friday and from 9 am – noon on Saturdays. By 4 pm today, 1,350 calls from the public had been dealt with – 40% up on an average Monday. Many focused on snow clearing and bin collections.
Contacting the Council: The Council’s Customer Services Centre - 01349 886606 – is open Monday – Friday between 8 am - 6 pm and between 9 am – noon on Saturdays. The emergency out of hours number for Transport Environmental and Community Services is 0845 769 7284.