Keeping Hampshire moving this winter: How we are preparing for the cold weather
With over 5,000 miles of road to look after, the County Council makes preparations for winter all year round. Recent winters have been particularly cold - last year highways teams treated 76,000 miles in total across Hampshire, devoting 10,000 man hours to continuous salting to keep the roads open.
Our salt stocks have been replenished and Hampshire now has all of its salt barns across the county full, with more than twice the minimum amount recommended by the Government so we are ready for winter.
When we salt the roads
We use a number of methods to help us decide when it is best to do it. These include daily detailed forecasts and the ‘Icelert’ system - a series of roadside sensors across the county monitoring air and road surface temperature, wind speed and direction, rainfall, humidity, ice formation and salinity of the road surface. The times of snowfall, rainfall and potential rush hour traffic are all taken into consideration so that salt is spread at the most effective time. Salt works by lowering the freezing point of moisture on the surface of roads or pavements, but it takes the actions of tyres from traffic crushing the salt and dissolving it to make it work. It works best between -0°C and -5°C. Once temperatures fall below that it is less effective and hardly works at all below -10°C.
During freezing weather, salting lorries work around the clock on a priority schedule, so the busiest roads are routinely treated first. These ‘Priority One’ routes carry 85% of the total traffic in Hampshire and include A roads, major bus routes, roads to emergency services and other critical infrastructure.
During periods of prolonged freezing weather, ‘Priority Two’ routes, which treat single access to villages, schools and other public services, may be treated. We have recently added nine ‘community’ routes, which cover routes to smaller schools, larger GPs’ surgeries and other areas of community activity. See our salt routes online.
Community salt bins
More than 2,000 new blue salt bins have been installed across Hampshire over the past year. Each of these new larger bins holds 750kg of salt and grit for community use on public roads and pavements. One tablespoon of salt is enough to cover one square metre. It is important to remember that, while the bins will be refilled as regularly as possible during spells of prolonged freezing conditions, the priority for winter highways teams is to keep the main road network clear and salted.
Having a supply of salt for your own drive and a snow shovel, which can be bought from most hardware stores, will prepare you for bouts of severe weather.
Do not be tempted to use hot water to melt snow or ice on your drive, as this can lead to new ice forming as the water runs off onto the roads and pavements. There’s no law stopping you from clearing snow and ice on the pavement
outside your home or from public spaces. It’s unlikely you’ll be held legally responsible for any injuries on the path if you have cleared it carefully. Follow the snow code when clearing snow and ice safely.
Winter driving tips
- Always check road conditions on the radio traffic news before setting out.
- Make sure your vehicle has a well charged battery and antifreeze coolant; most breakdowns in winter are caused by these failures. It is a good idea to take a flask of hot drink, a torch, a fully charged mobile phone and a shovel on long journeys.
- Ask yourself if your journey is really necessary. If it is, allow yourself extra time to get to your destination.
- Use dipped headlights in poor weather, avoid sudden acceleration and braking and keep your speed down to an appropriate level for the conditions.
- Do not assume that the roads are free from frost and ice, even if the road looks clear.