AS temperatures begin to fall across the county, a small army of gritter drivers are gearing up for a busy winter.
East Sussex Highways’ fleet of 24 gritters are ready to hit the road when snow is forecast, or the road surface temperature falls close to or below freezing, and have already been in action three times in the last two months.
Gritters named by local school children, including Salty McSaltface, Ready Salted and The Olaf Express, treat all A and B roads and some C roads – a total of 42 per cent of roads across the county.
Cllr Nick Bennett, lead member for transport and environment at East Sussex County Council, said: “As well as posing a danger to drivers, snow and ice can bring the county to a standstill, so it’s vital we are ready to deal with any weather this winter brings.
“We use the latest weather forecasting technology to decide when we need to grit roads and decisions are made once a day, sometimes more if the weather is severe.
“Preparations begin well in advance of falling temperatures, with salt stocks topped up and vehicles checked, so the team is ready to spring into action to keep the county’s roads clear.”
Last winter East Sussex Highways carried out 78 full gritting runs, treating a total of 98,727km of roads – the equivalent of driving from Hastings to John O’Groats 82 times.
The busiest time for the team was during February when nearly half of the gritting runs were carried out as they tackled the Beast from the East.
While gritter drivers aim to grit the roads before frost and ice appear, rain or snow can wash salt away, so drivers are reminded to take extra care during cold weather.
Cllr Bennett added: “Our gritter drivers will work tirelessly throughout the winter to keep roads as clear as possible. However, salt is not magic dust and roads can still freeze at very cold temperatures, so drivers should take extra care on the roads regardless of whether the gritters have been out.
“I would urge motorists to consider whether their journey is essential if the weather becomes severe. If it is, they should make sure they are prepared for any emergency situations.”
Advice from East Sussex Highways includes checking on the @esccroads Twitter feed or listening to local radio stations, to make sure routes are clear, carrying water and food, a blanket, study shoes and a shovel, and driving to the conditions.
Information about gritting in East Sussex is available online at www.eastsussex.gov.uk/gritting while any problems on the roads can be reported by contacting the highways contact centre on 0345 60 80 193 or via Twitter @esccroads
For school closures visit www.eastsussex.gov.uk/educationandlearning/schools/schoolclosures/ and disruption to other council services visit www.eastsussex.gov.uk/news/
Uckfield FM will be a main information source regarding School Closures and Roads.