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Council prepares for another big freeze

News
Cllr Joe Byrne

Council prepares for another ‘Big Freeze’ this winter



Mayo County Council has more salt, but could still struggle to treat minor roads

Trevor Quinn


MAYO County Council Engineer, Joe Beirne, has admitted that a ‘long spell’ of arctic weather, similar to that experienced last winter, could ultimately result in a ‘struggle’ for the Council.
Mr Beirne told The Mayo News that he is happy with the significant supplies of salt, new equipment and storage facilities that Mayo County Council have at their disposal but primary and national roads would have to take precedence over local and residential areas.
Mayo County Council have 4,000 tonnes of salt in place for distribution compared to just 2,000 prior to the winter period last year. Mr Beirne said this was ‘very positive’.
“We’ll have twice the amount so we’ll be well prepared but we used 5,000 tonnes last year in total,” he said.
Mr Beirne said there was a shortage of salt supplies in the country last year and this was highly detrimental and unprecedented. He said the NRA have recently sent e-mails guaranteeing that they will have twice as much salt this year.
He said that he believes new storage facilities in Claremorris and Kilkelly will also be of great benefit.
“In a broader sense we are better prepared. The NRA have provided us with grants and we are upgrading our gritters and we have acquired three extra snow ploughs.”
Over the coming months Mr Beirne said he is confident salt stocks, storage facilities and new equipment will help to safeguard motorists and pedestrians against the hazards and dangers of another possible ‘big freeze’. However, he stated it was unlikely that minor roads and  footpaths could be adequately treated during a sustained cold period.
“We are aware that last year there were a number of complaints in relation to the streets and footpaths in Westport last winter.”
Between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve at Mayo General Hospital A&E there was approximately 182 presentations as a result of injuries associated with weather conditions in the county, a significant majority of these were attributed to falls on footpaths, streets and local roads.
Weather experts in Ireland and the UK have stated that below average temperatures are likely for December, January and February with snowfalls anticipated in some parts of Ireland as early as November next.
However, Mr Beirne remained sceptical of long range weather forecasters.
“It’s very difficult to predict weather like that when they are months in advance. I think any estimations now are premature before October at least. Last winter most of the country was covered while most of Europe was affected. That was a very severe spell which came. That is unlikely to happen again.”
The ‘big freeze’ of 2010/11 saw Straide have the unique distinction of holding the coldest temperature ever recorded in Ireland during the month of December with temperatures plummeting as low as -17.5C on Christmas Day last year. December was also the coldest month on record in Ireland since records began.