Often wondered the ins and outs of what really happens to our roads once it freezes?
One of the men behind Donegal County Councils all important winter maintenance Brian Burke, ‘grits’ to the point and explains that contrary to popular belief it’s not just about throwing salt on the roads.
Timing is everything, says Brian, Duty Engineer with Donegal County Council.
“In relation to the process of how we do our winter maintenance on a daily basis, Met Eireann produces the forecast for us everyday, they are the national weather service provider in Ireland and they do it for each local authority.
“So we would get the forecast for any given day and interpret whether there is likely to be frost or not on any given night.
“Met Eireann download this information onto a package called Vaisiala and what that basically does is it produces a series of graphs from our the forecast model and our different weather stations, it’s up to us then as duty engineers to interpret the graphs to determine if we need to grit and were we grit.”
A direction then goes out to our crews throughout the county and this often means that our staff have an early start so that the gritters are ready for a 6am start.
One of the most frequently asked questions we get is has my route been gritted, says Brian.
“Donegal County Council grit approx 1000km of road each night that we need to and if all routes need gritted we send out all 21 gritter’s to get the job done.
“It would be impossible to grit every road in Donegal, so we try to ensure that all main roads are sufficiently gritted based on a pre agreed list of routes each year.
“In practical term this generally means the gritting and snow ploughing of priority routes, which are clearly identified in advance of each winter. The primary responsibility for road safety remains at all times with drivers of vehicles and while the council endeavours to maintain the major routes in a passable condition, each driver must exercise sufficient caution to take account of the prevailing road conditions.”
Brian praises the phenomenon of twitter and Facebook, saying that long gone are the days that we need to rely on word of mouth to find out if the roads have been gritted.
“We notify the public via our Twitter, Facebook, Donegal County Council winter weather web site and also via our new winter maintenance mapping viewer.
“It’s great that we have so many avenues to tell people if we are going to be out gritting. Our new mapping system also lets people check to see if their route is being gritted, it’s so precise it lets you zoom right into your own street. And even if you don’t have Twitter the local media share our messages. I think that’s called trending on Twitter, he laughed.”
- Priority 1 routes are — routes which are essential to be kept serviceable in all weather conditions as far as reasonably practicable. (All National, Primary & Secondary Network in Donegal).
- Priority 2 routes are — routes which are desirable to be kept serviceable in normal winter weather conditions, as far as reasonably practicable e.g. principle public transport routes or the main commuter routes.
- There is over 6000km of road network in Donegal – that’s the same distance from Donegal to New York City.
- Our Twitter has 2,048 followers, follow us @RoadsDCC and @Donegalcouncil
- Salt is not normally spread when:
- It is raining due to the risk of wash-off
- On dry roads, as moisture is required to turn salt into de-icing solution
- In the middle of the night and on roads with fewer vehicles as traffic is required to turn salt into de-icing solution.
- The overall number of call-outs for the winter of 2012-2013 was a total of 100 compared with 48 in 2011-2012.
- In 2013 Donegal County Council spent over €1.25m on Winter Road Maintenance