THE COLD SNAP

The unusual

In what you could call the earliest widespread snowfall for the UK since 1993, several boroughs and districts in Surrey struggled to cope with the somewhat unusual situation that they found themselves during the closing week of November. According to some weather reports, it was the deepest November snowfall in 4 decades in most parts of the county, with up to 11 inches of snow covering some areas.

Traffic standstill

Hundreds of vehicles- particularly lorries were abandoned on motorways forcing scores of motorists to spend Tuesday night in freezing conditions in their cars. The rails were also severely hit with several passengers stranded overnight on motionless trains. And as though nature’s troubles were not enough, Train company SouthEastern compounded its woes by sending two vital de-icing trains away for servicing at the height of the big freeze and was subsequently condemned by MPs for ‘total incompetence’. Gatwick Airport was closed to flights on Tuesday and Wednesday as the snow intensified. Meanwhile, major town roads were gritted but smaller streets were untouched, despite the extra 50% salt that the council ordered this year.

The crippling effect

At least 225 schools in the county were closed for days because of the conditions, meaning several parents without immediate & alternative arrangements for child care had to sit at home and lose the day’s pay.

At the East Surrey Hospital, those in charge had to put their thinking caps on. Appeals were made on social networking site Twitter for help from 4×4 drivers to take drugs to several homes, transport patients to and fro the hospital and also bring staff to work. As many hands as possible were needed on deck, thanks to the increasing number of cases at A&E with injuries from slips, falls and other ice and snow accidents.

Several bus services in the county were cancelled for days leaving a good number of people stranded. Businesses including restaurants, fuel stations, superstores, hotels and pubs felt the loss with customers calling in to cancel bookings and several workers absent from work.

Are we ready for the next surprise?

According to council officials, immediate action is being taken to repair potholes caused by snow and ice in the region, and about 1,500 grit bins across the county are being refilled. Extra salt supplies, totalling 2,300 tonnes, are now being delivered to the county with the first delivery expected in December and the others in January. From this latest snow experience however, not many are confident that more salt will solve the situation. Several news reports showed that as a result of the limited number of workers clearing the roads and with continuous snow fall, attention had to be focused on major roads. So, once upon a time it was a case of limited salt, but now, we are talking about limited workers on the roads. Who knows what’s next?

If anything, the general advice for now is, keep an eye on your neighbour, and, yourself.

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