England is Out of Salt



Essential supplies of grit are dwindling across the UK as local authorities struggle to treat roads, with predictions that ­shortages will continue despite the Met Office’s decision to downgrade its severe weather warnings of more heavy snow.

The transport minister, Lord Adonis, has warned local authorities to reduce the amount of grit they are using by a quarter, saying sub-zero temperatures are likely to continue for nine further nights.

Forecasters say further disruptive snowfall across eastern and south-eastern England is now less likely, although there is still a “moderate risk of a severe weather event” in parts of Wales, north-east and south-east England, with 1-2cm of snow on lower ground and up to 8cm on east-facing slopes.

The chief executive of the Met Office, John Hirst, defended its seasonal forecasts, which suggested that this would be a mild winter, saying it was extremely difficult to predict the weather accurately in advance. “All of the UK’s contingency planning and exercises work on our five-day forecasts, which are massively reliable,” he said, adding that longer-term forecasting was improving all the time.

The National Grid’s latest gas supply alert was lifted todayafter more fuel came in from the market, with a spokesman saying the situation was “back to normal”. But there were fears that the prolonged cold spell would lead to a marked rise in food prices, with farmers unable to harvest crops because of the sub-zero temperatures.

Local authorities and the Highways Agency are getting through 60,000 tonnes of salt every day — more than double the usual rate for cold conditions. Daily salt production cannot keep up, running at 15,000 tonnes a day with a stockpile of 320,000 tonnes left until supplies arrive.

And reader C.C. sent in this gem:

Heavy snow, low temperatures and a lack of gritting mean pavements throughout the country are too slippery to walk on safely. Hospitals have been struggling to cope with rising numbers of patients who have broken bones after falling on icy paths.

“Struggling to cope?” I guess socialized medicine only works properly on sunny days.


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