24 November 2010

With snow and cold weather forecast for later in the week Northamptonshire County Council is urging people to take care on the roads and drive with caution.

While the authority carries out precautionary salting of 1,128 miles of highways on each gritting run, it is advising that salt, while very effective at speeding up the thawing process, will not miraculously banish snow and ice.

Cllr Heather Smith, county council cabinet member for transport, minerals and waste, said: “The use of gritting salt is by far one of the best tools any local authority has for dealing with severe winter weather and keeping the road network open.

“However I think there is sometimes a misconception that it is a magic treatment that can halt anything nature has to throw at us.

“The truth is that while salt undoubtedly speeds up the thawing process and can make a very big difference, it’s effectiveness is very much reduced at temperatures below minus 5C.

“Also, where roads have been snow-ploughed it is also very beneficial to the thawing process but simply spreading it on un-cleared roads is not so effective in melting the snow.”

The authority is also outlining how people can play a role in helping themselves and their communities by taking direct action.

Following uncertainty last winter over whether people could clear snow from outside their homes without being sued the government issued a snow code, which clarified where householders stood legally.

The code shows that by following guidelines, people can make a difference in their street and keep the county moving.

As well as clearing footpaths outside their homes people can also use one of the county council’s 1,780 grit bins which are located across the county to spread in assisting to clear public pavements.

Cllr Heather Smith added: “The snow code means that there is now clear guidance on how people can clear snow and ice from outside their homes.

“It’s all common sense really. As long as people aren’t making the pavement or road more treacherous by treating surfaces then what they’re doing is of a great help to themselves, to us and to their community.”

Top tips include:

  • If you clear snow and ice yourself, be careful - don’t make the pathways more dangerous by causing them to refreeze. But don’t be put off clearing paths because you’re afraid someone will get injured.
  • Clear the snow or ice early in the day - it’s easier to move fresh, loose snow rather than hard snow that has packed together from people walking on it. Any sunshine during the day will help melt any ice beneath. You can then cover the path with salt before nightfall to stop it refreezing overnight.
  • Use salt or sand - not water - if you use water to melt the snow, it may refreeze and turn to black ice. Black ice increases the risk of injuries as it is invisible and very slippery. You can use ordinary table or dishwasher salt - a tablespoon for each square metre you clear should work.
  • Take care where you move the snow - when you’re shovelling snow, take care where you put it so it doesn’t block people’s paths or drains. Make sure you make a path down the middle of the area to be cleared first, so you have a clear surface to walk on. Then shovel the snow from the centre of the path to the sides.
  • Prevent slips - pay extra attention to clear snow and ice from steps and steep pathways - you might need to use more salt on these areas.
  • Check that any elderly or disabled neighbours are okay - if your neighbour will have difficulty getting in and out of their home, offer to clear snow and ice around their property as well. Check that any elderly or disabled neighbours are alright in the cold weather.