Gritters went almost four times around the world last Winter
With April now with us, Oxfordshire’ gritting teams are reflecting on one of their busiest winters in recent times with several bouts of snow and colder than average temperatures hitting the county.
“It was certainly a Winter with a far different character than most of those we’ve had this decade” said Paul Wilson, the man who oversees the council’s gritting operation.
“In total the council sent the gritters out on 76 occasions from November onwards. That compares to 45 in 2016/17. The council also had to put the snowploughs on to the gritters four times – something that had not been needed in Oxfordshire since 2012/13. A total of over 16,000 tonnes of salt were used and over 90,000 miles covered by Oxfordshire’s gritters from November to March - which equates to 3.7 times around the world.
“November had been a cold month with the gritters having to go out on numerous occasions and then we had the second weekend of December when everybody woke up one Sunday morning to an ever thickening blanket of snow,” said Paul.
“We’d set up ready the day before and sent the gritters out with the snowploughs attached and managed to get all the main roads clear – but that was quite some snow event for Oxfordshire and there were some particularly low temperatures in the nights following that meant the snow hung around for a while.
“We had another very active period between Christmas and New Year before further busy times during January and February - although it wasn’t until the first day or two of March that we had to get the snowploughs out again.
Beast from the East
“The March snow will still be fresh in everybody’s mind. Everybody will remember the phrase “Beast from the East”. In fact the snow we got was due to a westerly weather system, Storm Emma, crashing in to the Easterlies that had brought a lot of snow to counties to the East of us. Oxfordshire hadn’t been getting as much snow as many other parts of the country but leading in to that first weekend in March west Oxfordshire got some very deep snow.
“A real notable feature in the West was snow drifting off fields on to the roads due to the winds – a lot of hard work went in to clearing the roads over that weekend and we had some absolutely fantastic support from the local farming community who really rolled their sleeves up and pitched in.
“Then we had another less intrusive brush with snow in mid-March.”
“All in all it was a Winter for cold and snow and winds from the north and east rather than rain and flooding and incessant weather systems from the Atlantic. That means it was quite an unusual Winter.
“I’d like to thank all the team involved in the winter operation but particularly the gritter drivers who as ever were out on the roads at some very unsociable hours and in inhospitable conditions. They did the job in terms of keeping main roads passable.
"There are always people who imagine that gritting means winter conditions are completely eliminated – the vast majority of people know that gritting and ploughing helps, but it doesn’t turn December in to July. So I’d also like to thank the thousands of Oxfordshire motorists who drove with care and to the conditions. Let’s hope we can now all now look forward to Spring and Summer”
The county council’s gritters cover 1,200 miles of road on one gritting run – covering all A-roads, B-roads and some C-roads. Highways England cover the A34, A43 and M40.