NEARLY 20,000 tonnes of salt has been stockpiled to help keep our region’s roads moving this winter.
After a mild autumn, the weather has taken a colder turn and local authorities are readying themselves for the worst.
A year ago this week Hampshire suffered heavy snowfall that saw many major roads impassable and dozens of schools forced to close.
The county council has prepared 18,000 tonnes of salt – enough for 15 continuous days of salting on the main routes – which is up from 12,000 tonnes two years ago.
And Portsmouth City Council has increased its reserves from 900 to 950 tonnes.
New plough blades which clear more snow by ploughing closer to the road surface are also being tested this year by the council.
Councillor Mel Kendal, who is in charge of environment and transport matters at Hampshire County Council, said: ‘Hampshire has suffered some severe weather during the past few winters which has perfectly demonstrated the importance of being prepared.
‘We’ve worked with parish and town councils and community groups across the county to ensure that everyone can play a part in keeping Hampshire moving during the winter, and the provision of extra salt bins and snow shovels in the community means that we’ll all be even more resilient to snow and ice this winter.’
Councillor Jason Fazackarley, who is in charge of transport and traffic for Portsmouth, said: ‘We have taken just about every precaution we can to anticipate what might happen.
‘We had two really bad winters, and like everyone else – particularly the first time – we were caught on the hop, but I now feel I can go into winter with a degree of optimism.
‘If there’s any severe weather this year disruption will be kept to a minimum. There’s been a lot that goes on behind closed doors during the summer and autumn to make sure everything is alright.’
Highways teams are already out regularly monitoring road surface temperatures and forecasts.
Amey, the county council’s highways maintenance contractor, is offering a free snow shovel to every Hampshire primary school to help keep pathways and outdoor areas clear and usable during snowy and icy conditions. These shovels are wider and lighter than normal shovels as they are specifically designed to clear snow and ice.
They have already been provided to parish and town councils.
Both Hampshire and Portsmouth have also increased the number of salt bins for use by the public.
Around 100 farmers are on stand-by to support the county council’s winter weather response when needed, to clear snow from the roads.
Hospital staff want public to heed Choose Well message this winter
THE public are being urged to think carefully about where they go if they have a medical emergency over the festive period.
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust is pushing its Choose Well campaign which aims to stop avoid overloading at the busy casualty department at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham with minor health problems.
The minor injuries unit (MIU) at Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Gosport is promoted as an alternative.
The unit is staffed by experienced A&E nurses who have had additional training in the management of minor injuries.
Anne Welling, consultant nurse in emergency care, said: ‘The MIU sees about 1,500 patients a month and on average waiting times are less than one hour. No patient has waited longer than four hours from time of their arrival to discharge in the past 18 months.
‘The Choose Well campaign is designed to help people choose the best place to get treatment if they fall ill, freeing up emergency services to help those most in need.’
The MIU is open every day from 8am to 9pm.
Alison Fitzsimons, head of professions and nursing and trust lead for business continuity, said they were ready for winter. She said: ‘We are well prepared and have worked up plans for any adverse weather conditions.’
Mixed forecast for month ahead
THE weather forecast over the next few weeks will see a period of changeable conditions according to the Met Office.
Rain and strong winds or gales are expected tomorrow.
But it is expected to be windy and cold on Friday with a few showers and there is likely to be a frosty start to the weekend.
Through the middle of December it is predicting rain and showers in all areas, and it will turn cold in many places, particularly in the wind, with overnight frost and icy patches,
Towards the end of the month, temperatures may be a little above average, with some brighter weather, although overnight frosts and fog are still to be expected.
The Met Office is not currently forecasting snow before the end of the year for Hampshire.
Driest autumn in half century is a concern
ONE of the driest autumns in 40 years could see water restrictions being imposed unless rain falls this winter.
Officials at Portsmouth Water are praying for a spell of wet weather to replenish dwindling groundwater levels in the South Downs.
The groundwater in the Havant area – from which most of the area’s water supply comes – is down by four metres (13ft) on the average for the last 30 years.
It follows a very dry autumn, with a third of the average rainfall in October and half the average in November.
Andy Neve, engineering director at Portsmouth Water, said: ‘We are monitoring the situation fairly closely. If we get some wet weather over the next two or three months that will help to recharge the chalk of the South Downs.
‘That would not cause us any concern. If however we continue to have a dry winter, our water resources will be in a fairly poor position in the spring.’
He said the situation would be reassessed in January. The firm has not imposed water restrictions, such as a hosepipe ban, since 1976.