With the winter season upon us, Mayo County Council is urging drivers to always drive to the weather conditions in order to keep safe on the roads
Gritters are geared up for call outs in the winter season and Local salt barns have been piled to capacity ahead of this winter.
Mayo County Council delivers an annual winter maintenance service with gritters available throughout the season, which runs from the beginning 17th October until 30th April each year.
The County Council's fleet of two 9-m salt spreaders, twelve 6-m salt spreaders, six 2-m salt spreaders and three tractor spreaders are called upon usually when road surface temperatures are predicted to drop below 0C and ice is expected and it is all about timing. Precautionary gritting is normally done late in the evening, before the coldest temperatures arrive, but it is key not to send gritters out too early, especially if rain water could wash salt away. The TII - Transport Infrastructure Ireland procures bureau weather services to assist Mayo County Council in predicting when frost, ice or snow may occur on the road network. These services are currently provided by a combination of Met Éireann and Vaisala.
There are over 60 staff involved in the provision of the winter service during normal winter weather including Winter Service Manager, Duty Engineers, District Engineers, and Winter Service Operatives. This number is increased during severe weather as resources allow.
Mr Paul Dolan Senior Roads Engineer, said:
"Keeping the roads safe during winter is both a science and an art. Our carefully planned gritting routes cover 1,075 km of road across 23 treatment routes which equates to 100% of the national primary network,100% of the national secondary network, 82% of regional roads and 3% of the local road network.
"We monitor and analyse a range of forecasts so roads are treated when the salt will be most effective. Salt lowers the freezing temperature of water, making ice less likely to form, so we have to carry out precautionary gritting before any frost. We then undertake reactive gritting as needed in response to accumulations of snow and ice during severe wintery weather."
"Even with the most careful and thorough planning, the use of special Met Office forecasts and the latest ice prediction technology, winter service is really a battle against the elements and ice-free roads cannot be guaranteed. Motorists have to play their part by taking extra care during wintry conditions. The best advice is in the rules of the road - drive with care even if roads have been salted, be prepared for road conditions changing over short distances and take care when overtaking gritters."
Despite the resources that are applied to providing the winter service, ice-free roads cannot be guaranteed. The motorist should remember the following:
In Ireland there are a high risk proportion of marginal nights when temperatures are very close to zero. This makes it more difficult to accurately predict frost than in colder countries.
It takes a number of hours to organise salting operations and salt a route, so any journey may start or end on an untreated section of the route.
In heavy rain, salt can be washed away and the wet surface may subsequently freeze if the temperature falls below zero.
To explain more about what happens behind the scenes as the County council prepares for winter, Mayo County Council are advising people to visit http://www.mayococo.ie/en/Services/WinterReady/ . The site aims to get people talking about how science and data can be used to overcome the challenges of winter.
For information on the winter maintenance service in Co. Mayo, including maps of gritting routes, visit Mayo County council's website: