Devon County Council praised for fast response to snow

Snow Update: A massive emergency operation mounted by Devon County Council spanning road clearance, rest centres and care for the elderly have been praised by business leaders.

A massive emergency operation mounted by Devon County Council spanning road clearance, rest centres and care for the elderly have been praised by business leaders.

In response to the heavy snow fall, the County Council swung into action with hundreds of staff supported by local volunteers.

Snow has fallen across the county with 45cms in some places.

The A30 and A38 were closed and over 200 stranded motorists were given refuge in Devon County Council rest centres at Okehampton School and Chudleigh Town Hall, which was set up with the support of the Town Council, local volunteers and the St John Ambulance.

At its peak, the Chudleigh rest centre was refuge for approximately 210 people. Visitors were given warm blankets, hot drinks and food, courtesy of local businesses. The centre is currently still operational with approximately 130 visitors.

An additional rest centre was established at Haldon Racecourse by the Police.

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Contingency plans are in place to continue to deliver care to elderly and vulnerable people throughout Devon. In rural areas that have become inaccessible, care providers are contacting clients to ensure they have adequate food and are safe. Dartmoor has presented the most problems for Meals on Wheels services. Anyone concerned about the situation should ring Care Direct on 0845 155 1007.

The county council's mobile libraries are off the road throughout Devon, apart from in the South Hams and Teignbridge. Lynton, Chulmleigh, Chagford and Tiverton libraries are also closed.

Devon County Council's gritters have been out continuously right across the county yesterday afternoon and overnight carrying out salting of all the major routes on the pre-salting network and secondary routes, covering around 2,000 miles.

Snow ploughs and snow blowers have been clearing the roads as quickly as possible, but many roads remain closed as the snow continues to fall making visability very poor.

Trees have blocked some roads after falling with the weight of the snow and abandoned vehicles are restricting access.

Councillor Margaret Rogers, Devon County Council Executive Member for Environment, said: "These are exceptional weather conditions and we have pulled out all the stops this week to keep the county moving and care for people. Our contingency planning has helped the county weather this exceptional conditions that we have experienced over the last 12 hours.

"Gritting is not a magic solution, and drivers should never assume a road has been salted. The County Council has been working 24 hours a day for the past few weeks to ensure that as much as the road network remains as open as possible, and we advise drivers not to make journeys unless absolutely necessary."

Edward Chorlton, Executive Director Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director of Environment, Economy and Culture, said: "I would like to say a big thank you to all Devon County Council staff, South West Highways engineers and local volunteers who have responded magnificently to keep Devon moving and look after vulnerable residents. It is an enormous on-going operation with everyone working together to keep the county moving."

Tim Jones, Chairman of the Devon & Cornwall Business Council agrees:

"The business community have universally praised the magnificent efforts by your department in keeping the highways as accessible as these extreme weather conditions would permit.

"It is appreciated what an enormously difficult task this represents and I know that you know how important it is that Devon keeps moving. Please accept our collective thanks."

Devon County Council is responsible for 8,000 miles of roads - the biggest network of any local authority in the country.

The gritters and snow ploughs will continue to work across the county re-gritting the major road network. Snow ploughs and tree clearing teams will continue clearing to re-open as many roads as possible over the next few hours.

There will be further snow fall during Friday but it is not expected to be as heavy as the past few hours. Icy conditions are expected later with temperatures falling to below -6 degrees overnight.

The on-going sub zero temperatures and snowfall has seen the County Council use more than 14,000 tonnes of salt on Devon's major routes and other roads into smaller communities, compared with the usual amount of between 10,000 and 12,000 tonnes during an entire average winter. 9,000 more tonnes of salt will be delivered to the County Council's depots in the next two weeks.

There are 6,600 tonnes of salt left which is expected to last up to six days in similar exceptional circumstances.

The County Council's Highway Operations and Control Centre is currently triple staffed to co-ordinate the extra volume of work on the road network.

The centre is staffed 24 hours a day, every day of the year and is fully equipped to monitor how the weather is affecting the road by using state-of-the-art technology including radar and satellite images, and a network of roadside ice detectors to provide information on road conditions.

Motorists are being reminded of the following advice:

� Avoid overnight travel unless absolutely essential as roads will always be more hazardous at night with less traffic and colder temperatures;

� Never assume a road has been salted - remember that showers or rain will wash salt off roads leaving them prone to ice. In very cold weather even salting will not stop ice from forming;

� Allow extra time for your journey and reduce your speed;

� Listen to local radio for updates on current conditions;

� Drive with care and according to the conditions.

For information on winter driving conditions see:

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