Gritting teams are gearing up to treat Lancashire’s roads for the first time this winter, following forecasts of freezing conditions.
The county’s 49-strong fleet is ready to be called into action to grit the roads ahead of a cold snap predicted this weekend, which is set to involve freezing rain showers and possible snow over higher ground, with conditions made more difficult by high winds.
People are being warned to stay alert for very changeable conditions, which could make roads treacherous even after they’ve been gritted.
County Coun John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We’re as ready as we can be for the coming winter with over 30,000 tonnes of salt in stock and 49 gritters ready to go from nine depots based around the county.
“We get very accurate weather forecasts and grit whenever a freeze is forecast.
“It isn’t practical to treat every road, however we treat all the A roads, all B roads, and some C roads, which adds up to around 1,500 miles of road – about a third of the total in Lancashire.
“Last year we experienced some very changeable conditions, including incidents when hail fell on freezing roads and turned to sheet ice in a few minutes.
“Rain falling on freezing surfaces can also create black ice which is virtually impossible to see, and can happen even when a road has been gritted.
“The very wet conditions we’ve had this week will also mean that run-off from fields or springs flowing up could create ice patches on rural roads.
“From the forecast it looks like we could expect these kind of conditions over the weekend.
“I’d like people to remember that just because a road has been gritted it doesn’t mean it won’t be icy as it takes time and the action of tyres to mix the salt with the ice and make it work by lowering the temperature at which the water freezes.
“I’d ask people to use their judgement as to whether their journey is necessary.
“If you do decide to travel, drive according to the conditions and be aware that the state of the road can change over relatively short distances.”
Lancashire County Council has a fleet of 49 frontline gritters which can treat the 1,500 miles of the county council’s priority road network within around four hours, but may take longer in severe conditions.
When it snows, it can cost up to £100,000 a day to keep the operation going. The county council also has on standby a number of agricultural contractors ready to clear more remote rural roads in the event of heavy snow.