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Winter is coming…

Fallen tree damages brick wall of Telford reservoir following Storm Callum

Winter is coming…

Being a Game of Thrones fan and having a keen interest in winter resilience, the cheesy title to this blogpost was almost too good an opportunity to miss. This week I noticed the appearance of Christmas chocolates and the obligatory tub of twiglets finding their way onto the shelves in the local supermarket, which can only mean one thing – that summer is over and the countdown to Christmas is on!

Whilst most people will be thinking ahead to Christmas presents and plans for seeing friends and family, for most Local Highway Authority officers, contractors and supply chain partners, thoughts will be turning to what the forthcoming winter will have in store. By now gritting routes will have been confirmed, dry runs completed, weighbridges calibrated, grit bins filled and winter rotas confirmed.

Whilst a well-known national newspaper has already run its annual ‘worst winter in living memory coming’ headline, in reality it’s hard to predict with any certainty how this winter will pan out, and the past few years have been anything but predictable. Whilst in temperature terms last winter was relatively average, particularly in comparison to the previous year’s ‘Beast from the East’, this time 12 months ago saw the first storm of the season ‘Storm Ali’ emerge which led to two fatalities from severe winds, and over 100,000 homes in Northern Ireland without power for a number of days. This was closely followed by ‘Storm Bronagh’ which dumped a record 66.2mm of rain in 24 hours on the City of Sheffield, causing serious flooding in the City Centre and many surrounding areas. A month later ‘Storm Callum’ arrived providing further severe winds, downed trees and three more fatalities. A serious start to the Winter of 2018.

In 17/18 we went from Storm Aileen to Hector and in 18/19 we went from Ali to Hannah. This year it will start with Storm Atiyah and let’s hope I don’t jinx it by hoping we don’t make it past Storm Hugh.

Following on the back of a summer this year which included flash flooding and the evacuation of Whalley Bridge in the face of the possible damn collapse, these events are seemingly becoming more frequent and more significant. Preparedness for an event and being able to recover from these faster has never been more critical for Local Authorities. Yet studies show we repeatedly struggle to learn the lessons from these types and many other types of emergency events.

The Local Authorities Hub at Highways UK (6th & 7th November 2019) will provide a firm focus on many of these key issues facing Local Authorities including resilience, emergency preparedness and climate change. These will include interactive workshops and debates to enable knowledge to be shared and solutions to be developed. Register your place now for free, to learn from a wide range of industry experts to ensure your organisation is ready for the unexpected.

And if it happens that you’re not involved in the frontline management of winter resilience this year, then spare a thought for those who will no doubt be out, throughout the night in all weathers, from deploying sandbags, putting out road closure signs, gritting the roads or even inspecting them at 3am looking for signs of frost. These unsung heroes work through the night, ensuring we can get to work the next morning, and a great job they do too.

Picture: Tree damage to Reservoir Wall, Telford, as a result of Storm Callum

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