Saturday 25 February 2017

State spends €23m on Big Freeze plan despite clear forecasts

Paul Melia

Paul Melia

MORE than €23m has been spent on salt and new equipment to keep roads and airports open this winter -- but the Big Freeze might not arrive.

Met Eireann said yesterday that the sub-zero temperatures which struck Ireland over the last two years were unusual and that long-range forecasts did not show any snow or ice on the horizon.

"The last two winters were unusual; the previous 20 were mild," said forecaster Gerard Fleming.

"We have access to monthly projections and there is no indication of severe weather."

Yesterday, as the Government launched 'Winter Ready', a €15,000 information campaign for householders, businesses and farmers, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said the country was as prepared as it could be.

"We'll be more prepared than ever before but Mother Nature is more powerful than any government so it won't be business as usual (if Arctic weather comes)," he said.

Grit

Meanwhile, 200,000 tonnes of salt, costing €16m, will be in depots countrywide by the end of the month, Mr Varadkar said.

"But it won't be enough to grit every road in the country," he added, explaining that roads had been prioritised in each county, and the ones carrying the most traffic could be treated first.

Speaking at the launch, the chairman of the government task force on emergency planning, Justice, Equality and Defence Minister Alan Shatter said a lot of work had been done to "improve our resilience".

Mr Shatter said he wanted to ensure authorities learned from mistakes and that there was "joined-up thinking".

A 16-page advice booklet collated by various agencies and authorities on what should be done in the event of flooding or another big freeze, is available online or from public libraries.

It includes advice from the Attorney General which states that if homeowners or businesses clear snow from footpaths in a "safe manner", no legal liability arises if a pedestrian slips and injures themselves.

For more information, see www.winterready.ie.

Irish Independent

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