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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 20 August, 2019
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How prepared is Ireland for another big freeze?

No one needs to panic – we have more than enough salt this time.

FORECASTERS ARE SAYING we could be in for another big freeze, with temperatures and snowfall similar to that of Winter 2010.

Remember Winter 2010?

Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Source: RTÉ

The roads were a mess (we even ran out of salt), public transport was completely disrupted and people were sliding all over the place injuring themselves.

With all those lovely memories flooding back, we decided to have a look at how we might do this winter if we are faced with another ‘big freeze’.

Roads

This is the big one. If the roads are not clear and safe, the entire country shuts down.

In 2010, we were not ready for the big freeze, which brought snow on a scale we had not seen in decades. Luckily, we seem to have learned from our mistakes, if our conversation with The National Roads Authority communications officer Sean O’Neill is anything to go by.

“We literally have tonnes of salt,” he told TheJournal.ie this week.

In 2010, we used 200,000 tonnes of the stuff and for this winter, we have stocked up with 230,000 tonnes – just in case.

Source: James Horan/Photocall Ireland

“When it gets to anything around freezing temperatures you have to treat it, you don’t want to risk not treating it. So, we do it on a case-by-case basis. I don’t think people realise we’re doing it all the time.”

I can’t offer any guarantees, I mean, if there was a a cataclysmic weather event that happened, all the salt in the world wouldn’t help.

However he said the NRA is “definitely salted and ready to go”.

Once the cold snap really sets in, you can check the NRA’s traffic website to see what state the roads you need to use are in.

Services

The ESB also assured us it always has up to date contingency plans for use in the event of poor weather conditions, which may lead to large numbers of power outages.

This was evident in the winter of 2010 and more recently demonstrated in the aftermath of Storm Darwin earlier this year.

The Department of Transport is also confident that services would manage if the white stuff starts falling from the sky. It said all State transport operators have plans in place for minimising the impact of severe weather should it arise.

The department also meets with these operators before and after each winter to review these plans . The last meeting took place on 24 October in preparation for the coming winter.

The current plans of transport operators take account of lessons learned in the previous winters, including the storms of last winter and the prolonged snow and widespread flooding which occurred in 2009 and 2010.

We cannot control the weather but the aim is to have measures in place to minimise any negative effects from severe weather.

Hospitals

Though slippery paths this winter would increase bone fractures and breaks, Dave Hughes of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) told TheJournal.ie that these would not be the patients who would create the chaos in Emergency Departments.

What you would think of with the big freeze is the slips, trips and falls. They themselves don’t actually put pressure in Emergency Departments because they’re in and out jobs. The pressure is in situations where you’re looking for a bed for someone. The amount of chronically sick or elderly people who get affected by the cold increases and they come in at the same time.

 

Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Hughes says this means those coming in with sprains and breaks, who would usually get through the system quickly, are left waiting hours in the Emergency Department to be seen and x-rayed and this is what creates the mayhem in hospitals.

He said right now, it is “bedlam and Emergency Departments are absolutely chocker block”. As we enter into the winter period, this is expected to continue so, needless to say, Hughes and his colleagues are not hoping for a white Christmas.

We also asked the HSE how it believed Emergency Departments would handle a big freeze this winter but received no response by time of publication.

Read: 11 things we can expect this winter if Ireland experiences another ‘big freeze>

Read: Remember this? The first snow days of November 2010>

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