A Snowy Nightmare

With the increase in hazardous weather, argues that it time for real investment in our infrastructure

Image: David Stowell

 

Waking up to a blanket of snow on the ground will likely put a smile on your face, particularly around the Christmas period. Yet, for many of us, this happiness can be quickly overshadowed by the bedlam that inevitably follows snowy weather.

It’s hard to deny that whenever Great Britain is hit by a snowstorm, the entire country descends into absolute chaos. The end of 2017 brought with it several bouts of bad weather, the latest consisting of heavy snowfall across much of the country, strong winds and some of the coldest temperatures of the year. The not-so-unfamiliar consequences of such weather include severe travel delays, power cuts, a massive increase in the number of car accidents and disruption at many major UK airports.

Despite the impact it has, bad weather is not an uncommon occurrence in Britain; like it or not, it’s one of the things our country is known for. So why are we so incapable of dealing with it?

If you compare our ability to handle winter weather with that of other countries, it is, frankly, a bit embarrassing. Northern parts of the US, for instance, have recently experienced record-breaking temperatures and snowfall. Yet one hears little complaint from American snow crews clearing the 65 inches of snow that fell in recent days, whilst we, however, struggle to deal with 4 inches.

Perhaps it’s time to take a leaf out of Sweden’s book when it comes to dealing with snow. Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport takes pride in never once having closed due to snow in more than 50 years of operation. Their state-of-the-art snow-clearing machines and snow-removal training for maintenance teams are key to this success.

In Britain, on the other hand, the post-Christmas snowfall resulted in widespread flight cancellations, the closure of several airports and hundreds of disgruntled passengers being left stranded. The Guardian reported on how Stansted Airport ground to a halt as staff were unable to get into work.

The situation on the roads is no better. Following the snowfall of the 27th December, a spokesman for the RAC told The Guardian “We are experiencing higher breakdown volumes than expected, with callouts up by 15%-20% compared with seasonal norms.” The icy conditions certainly took their toll on UK roads, resulting in a rapid increase in the number of potholes and leading to some roads crumbling away. The fact that the RAC attended a breakdown every 10 seconds on the 29th gives a sense of the seriousness of the situation.

It is indisputable that things needs to change. Our performance in comparison to other northern nations is evidence enough that we are doing something wrong. Investment in better snow-clearing equipment and more up-to-date strategies would perhaps make Britain better-prepared for the next snowfall, rather than seemingly caught by surprise. Yet, no matter the solution, one thing is certain: we need to get our act together!

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