It's started snowing and over the days ahead, it's likely to get pretty bad here in mid-Wales.
Here in Ceredigion, we're ready with our salt because after our experiences from last year, it really is best to be prepared.
The 2009/10 Winter Experience
The last winter was said to be the coldest in 30 years since the winter of '81/'82. That makes sense to me because I was born the following August and in my recollection, it was certainly the coldest winter that I can recall.
Across the country, salt levels depleted to exceedingly low levels and Ceredigion was no different. The County had 6,000 tonnes of salt and it wasn't enough. The Highways Department it must be said dealt with it all and with the complaints and concerns of individual Councillors (including a scathing put down by myself one week in the local Cardigan paper) very professionally. The over-riding sense that I felt from my fellow Councillors of all political persuasions and none was that the Department and Cabinet Member Cllr Ray Quant had been very upfront, honest and transparent with the developing situation across the county on a daily basis.
The 2010/11 Winter Experience?
Well, hopefully we will be able to look back in the spring and at the weeks and months to come in the same way.
Cllr Quant certainly started as he intended to continue when he spoke direct to us all at the end of our Xmas Council meeting yesterday. He stated that as a result of the Council's experiences last year, they had increased their stock this time around to 9,000 tonnes. But the cold snap that we suffered a few weeks ago has already swallowed up the additonal 3,000 tonnes. So we are now on the cusp of this tough weekend back at the 6,000 tonne starting point at which we were at last year.
Whilst these understandably get the focus as the economy must keep moving, the 42 of us who have been elected onto the County Council will all keep a weary eye on our own 'patches' to ensure that those areas that we feel need to be treated are not forgotten. For those rural communities it will be difficult as the Council, due to budgetary restraints, have reduced this winter the amount of roads that it will pre-treat. Small, country roads may be a danger and rural members will no doubt put the pressure on the Highways Department if they feel that they are being forgotten.
For me, here in Cardigan, the greater problem is the pavements. Last year, it was in places safer to walk out into the road to avoid having to walk on the pavements. I myself fell over on two occasions so my concern is for the elderly residents of my ward who will be particularly vigilent as the weather deteriorates.
My plea is for anyone in Cardigan to contact me on 07817 865 712 if there are concerns about particular areas of town that need gritting.
Communication, Communication, Communication
The key to getting through the next few days and weeks with the best outcomes is to communicate. The Highways Department need to continue to communicate with us members as I'm sure they will and we need to ensure we communicate with local residents.
Watch this space...