Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: No excuse for shambolic response to snow

The Gulf Stream, the warm Atlantic current which influences our climate, has a lot to answer for. Although we are roughly on the same latitude as Moscow or Newfoundland, our climate is normally much more temperate and we are always caught unprepared when harsh winter weather strikes.

In recent days schools across the province have been closed - 40 at the last count but the figure fluctuates with every snowfall. Travel is, of course, widely disrupted. The airports have difficulty maintaining schedules and even the main roads are often impassable.

For those who live on minor rural roads, the situation is much worse, as these are rarely if ever gritted. Unless residents clear the routes themselves they will remain cut off. Even in towns and cities the response to the bad weather is patchy. Main routes are gritted but people living in estates, especially in the hills around Belfast, are having to cope with very dangerous conditions. Pavements are not salted and remain a grave hazard.

The authorities owe us all a duty to bring a co-ordinated and sensible policy to the salting of footpaths rather than the current shambolic approach which serves no one adequately.

Now the transfer tests due to be held today are in jeopardy because of the weather. If they are postponed that will be an added stress for pupils who have geared themselves up for the big day.

All this disruption results from relatively minor falls of snow, much less than experienced in other parts of the UK, never mind in Continental Europe.

None of this is a complaint directed at the emergency services and road services who toil in sterling fashion.

Rather it is the lack of a strategic approach to events such as snowfalls which irritates people most. There seems no good reason why virtually all roads in the province should not be gritted and cleared of ice and snow.

If roads were passable then schools and workplaces would be able to remain open and life would go on much as normal. Instead we seem intent on making an Alp out of every snowdrift.

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