The Cork and Kerry Inter-Agency Emergency Management Region South’s coordinated campaign, ‘Be Winter Ready’, is raising public awareness about the challenges Winter can present. An Garda Síochána, the Health Service Executive, Cork County Council, Cork City Council, and Kerry County Council have been working together since the start of the Covid-19 crisis to co-ordinate the community response and continue to assist communities in staying safe and in being ‘Winter Ready’.

Events of 2020 so far have demonstrated Cork County Council’s ability to respond with agility to the needs of communities throughout the county. From the initial redirecting of staff to provide support for isolating, cocooning and vulnerable community members, to the accelerated road and footpath improvement programme countywide under Project ACT, to the response to recent devastating flooding, Council roads crews have been on hand for the people of Cork County.

Padraig Barrett, Director of Services, Roads & Transportation, and Chair of Cork County Council’s Severe Weather Assessment Team, which will be standing by throughout the winter to respond to situations as they arise, explains how preparation is key in any such incident, to restoring service to county towns and villages.

With this as our priority, we have launched our Winter Service Plan 2020-2021. The Council is responsible for the maintenance of approximately 12 thousand km of road, more than any other local authority in the country. Responding to winter weather conditions which can adversely affect road users demands a strategic approach. As we know, conditions can change fast and we have created a schedule of priorities based on usage type, traffic volumes, and national, regional and local categorisation of routes.

Routes are divided into Priorities 1, 2 and 3. Priority 1 and 2 routes are normally pre-salted in response to forecasted low temperatures to reduce the likelihood of frost and ice forming on key routes. Priority 3 routes are salted after the onset of ice or frost as resources allow, and every effort will be made to treat priority 3 routes that service large industries and strategically important facilities. We also provide salt and grit for community use through Residents Associations and Community Groups on a shared funding basis, which plays a vital role in ensuring stability to communities in Cork County during the winter months.

This year, our efforts will be bolstered by new specialised equipment that will increase efficiency and reduce the amount of salt needed to service roads. This comes in the form of a piloted Brine Unit in North Cork. Whereas normally dry rock salt is spread on the road, this pre-wet system mixes dry salt with brine. This helps the salt stick to the road better, can be effective at temperatures as low as -20℃ and uses 30% less salt. Savings in salt costs will result in lower priority roads, and footpaths will be treated more frequently.

It’s important as we approach the winter months that all road users remain vigilant. Be mindful of weather forecasts before you intend to embark on a journey, ensure your car is equipped, pay attention to road conditions and adjust your speed and planned journey times accordingly. In freezing conditions, always drive with great care, even if the road has been salted. Cork County Council is here to support you and to maximise safety on our roads and footpaths. Information on Road Treatment Routes and grit stockpiles is available on and out of hours emergency assistance is available on (021) 4800048. This year has been like no other, and Winter, too, will present challenges. I’m confident that Cork County Council and the communities we serve can rise to these challenges together and ensure safety and continued success.

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