Column by Matthew Hicks, Leader of the Council.
Over the weekend we saw severe weather with the arrival of storm Darcy and up to 25cm of snow falling in some areas of the county.
We also saw the resilience and sterling efforts of Suffolk’s emergency services on display, including Suffolk Highways, Fire and Rescue, and Police colleagues, who have helped to keep people who needed to make essential journeys safe. I would like to say a huge thank you and well done to all who have worked so hard across the weekend in treacherous conditions, which are due to continue into this week.
Our fantastic highways teams have been out across the weekend keeping our roads clear of snow and ice. Over the past few days since the arrival of Storm Darcy, over 100 trained staff including our gritter drivers, supervisors and other support staff worked day and night and racked up over 1,500 driving hours to treat more than 14,500 miles of Suffolk’s roads.
Suffolk Highways has eight winter highways depots strategically placed across Suffolk in Ipswich, Brome, Halesworth, Lowestoft, Melton, Rougham, Depden and Mildenhall which are stocked with more than 20,000 tonnes of salt and these stocks remain topped up throughout the winter period to ensure we are prepared for any prolonged periods of severe weather. 41 gritting lorries serve the whole county, alongside contracts with 64 Farmers across Suffolk who have been called on to help clear snow on roads near to them.
Our highways team receive detailed weather forecasts that are specifically targeted at road temperatures and conditions, which allows the team to plan winter gritting treatments to ensure that the correct amount of salt is spread across the treated road network at the appropriate time.
Our NHS, emergency services and council teams have also been working hard to keep vaccination sites and testing centres running safely in spite of the snow, however several have had to close for safety reasons.
If you have booked a test or a covid-19 vaccination, please check whether the centre is open before you travel. Information about which vaccination centres are open will be updated at https://sneevaccine.org.uk/.
All Community Testing sites in Suffolk are remaining open, including the newly opened site in Haverhill, whilst mobile testing sites and some standard testing sites have had to close. If you need to book a covid-19 test and your local centre is closed, you can also contact 119 or visit the NHS Website services to book a Home Test.
Suffolk Highways do all they can to keep Suffolk’s roads safe during the winter months, but there are some simple things we can all do to make sure we are as prepared as possible.
Firstly, consider whether you journey is essential. If it is, check that your vehicle is topped up with washer fluid and tyre pressures are correct. Also, think about what would happen if you were to get stuck in your vehicle for a period of time. It’s cold, so a blanket or a warm coat along with something to keep your energy levels up!
Most importantly, drive with extra care because even though gritting helps stop ice from forming and clears some of the snow, it still requires road users to be cautious. Do allow more time for your journey and consider during severe weather if your journey is absolutely essential or could you wait for the weather to improve?
The most important thing we can all do to help, is to avoid any unnecessary journeys and always check before we travel.
Please visit Suffolk County Council’s severe weather pages for information about how essential services including schools, public transport, recycling centres, highways and more are operating during the severe winter weather: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/about/severe-winter-weather-information-and-services/