'Unprecedented' snowfall grinds Newry to a halt

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

SDLP Newry Councillor Michael Savage believes that a greater level of contingency planning would have helped mitigate the impact of last week's "unprecedented short burst of snowfall".

Over 30 local schools across the district were closed on Wednesday as a precautionary measure, whilst the Maritime Coastguard Agency were drafted in on 4x4s to assist Southern Trust home help nurses in rural areas as heavy snow on Tuesday evening brought the province to a standstill.

Councillor Savage, whilst commending the work of road service workers on the ground for their efforts in treacherous conditions, said that a greater degree of forward planning is necessary to pre-empt such scenarios in the future.

"I would like to thank all of the road service workers who worked tirelessly through the horrendous weather to get the roads back open again, so that at least people could get about their business again and get to work on Wednesday morning," he said.

"I do know that there was mayhem at the top of the Dublin Road and the Forkhill Road in particular, which were virtually impossible.

"I think that a bit more forward planning could have been done in relation to making sure that snow ploughs kept the main arterial links between Newry and South Armagh open.

"That said, I do appreciate the difficulties that the forces of nature caused."

Mr Savage said that one of his own constituents informed him that his commute from Donegal to his home in Forkhill took six hours in the adverse conditions, and said that whilst on his way home, observed a distinct lack of snow ploughs in Newry compared to other areas.

The councillor believes that this is an issue that needs to be addressed in the future to help minimise disruption to commuters in the city.

"He said to me that around the Aughnacloy and Dungannon area there were snow ploughs out and very visible and they commented that they didn't see one when they came in towards Newry, so I think maybe there's a need to ensure that snow ploughs are deployed on the main arterial routes that link the rural villages and towns to the city.

"The Forkhill Road was that bad that an ambulance couldn't get up the Forkhill Road and they had to go up the motorway," said Councillor Savage.

The Newry councillor proposed establishing a contingency pool of local farmers or people with heavy duty machinery that councils can turn to in cases of extreme conditions.

He said: "If the resources and the machinery aren't there within the Department to keep the main arterial roads open then I think there's a need for a strategy to team up with local farmers on the ground with bucket fittings on their tractors to help clear the roads, so that if snow ploughs aren't available, the work could be contracted out to local farmers to help clear the snow with their buckets."

Describing the conditions he experienced first hand in his own community, the Cloghogue Councillor said: "It got very difficult once you got up the Dublin Road and into the Cloghogue area.

"When you went up by Carnaget, Barcroft, Chancellor's Road, then by Doran's Hill and up into Cloghogue, there was quite a heavy snowfall that impacted on people's lives here.

"The Chancellor's Road here was particularly bad, especially along the front of Cloghogue School, so again it's roads like that that if you had farmers or local contractors contracted out to make sure that those roads are kept open so that rural communities can function because Cloghogue School had to close and it would serve the whole Killeavy and up by Killean as well in some cases."


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